Monday 8 February 2021

Domestic cat has a slow brain but rapid reflexes

I don't want to malign the domestic cat because I love the domestic cat. I'm trying to be realistic. I say that the domestic cat has a slow brain to which I could add "relative to the normal human brain". By this I mean that when the domestic cat has to process responses to human requests they do so more slowly than for humans. No big deal and nothing unusual there. There is no urgency in their response but there is an incredible speed in their instincts.

Domestic cat looks disdainfully at photographer
Domestic cat looks disdainfully at photographer. Photo: Pixabay.

Let me try and give you an illustration. You have trained your cat to come on your call. Your cat knows their name and they respond to being called by their name. But they take, relatively speaking, quite a long time to respond sometimes. This is why there was a splurge of articles not so long ago, by Internet journalist, stating how domestic cats don't respond to being called to come, but if they do come they do so disdainfully and with some reluctance.

I even recall a study on this which supported this notion. But in my opinion it is not a question of domestic cats refusing to come on being called, it is a question of the time it takes for them to process the call and to figure out that they should come. They look rather blankly and aimlessly during this time. Then off they go.

Conversely, in stark contrast, their natural hunting instincts are super rapid. Their instinct to chase prey emerges incredibly rapidly. If, for example, you wave your hand around your cat's head and he or she happens to be one of those domestic cats who likes to hunt and is perhaps on the young side, he will probably have a swipe at your hand within a nanosecond.

The rapid instinctive movements of domestic cats is renowned. This is why when handling a cat, even one you have lived with all your life, you have to think about these instincts and how they will play out in the mind of your cat. The domestic cat's wilder side, as we know, is right near the surface. It can be motivated, triggered into action with the right signals from their human companion.

The moral of this article is that (1) people should be patient when asking their cat to do something. They may understand but they may take their time in responding and (2) people be aware of the wild cat beneath the domestic one. It comes out in a flash and their instinctive, inherited hunting movements triggered by fast moving objects and the right sounds spring into action without notice. It is wise to be aware of it and respect the cat for these fantastic skills.

And don't expect a cat to be like a human family member even if you regard them as family members as many people do. This is where the idea of cats' not responding to a call comes from. They expect a human response or a dog's response. Dog's repond faster than cats because it is instinctive to them as they are pack animals.

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