Thursday 5 August 2021

Dogs love cars, cats hate them. Why?

The manufacturers of the mini in the UK (BMW) have decided to make a dog-friendly mini for sale in 2022. They have partnered with Dogs Trust. I have checked this out and I can't find out what a dog friendly car is. I don't know what they do to make it dog friendly but, to be frank, I'm not sure it matters anyway because dogs like cars but cats don't. Why is this?

I will have to use common sense. It comes down to domestication. The domestic dog is more domesticated than the domestic cat by about 10,000 years. Dogs been domesticated for upwards of 30,000 years whereas the cat has been domesticated for about 10,000 years plus a few thousand possibly. We don't know exactly.

Dogs like cars and cats normally dislike them
Dogs like cars and cats normally dislike them. Photo: Mini.

The wildcat (African-Asian wildcat) within the domestic cat is just below the surface and it pops up when they go outside and hunt during the night or at dawn and dusk (normally). It is like throwing a switch. Although domestic cats are adaptable and they integrate pretty well into the human lifestyle, they retain their desire to have their home range or territory and other wild feline characteristics. This means that they like their routines and rhythms because they are reassuring.

I feel that the domestic cat inherently struggles a bit with the human home and way of life. And therefore, routines and rhythms and a calm ambience reassures them. When you take them out of that regulated lifestyle into a strange place which is the interior of a car with strange noises, initially, they normally don't like it. 

And also, owners invariably place their cat into a carrier and then into a car. Therefore, they don't like the carrier and being in the car. It is stressful.

Also, cats often associate cars with going to the vet. That is not to say that there are some cats who like going in a car and on a journey. Also, there are instances of inquisitive cats jumping into vans and lorries. And finally, although cats initially are normally anxious about being inside a vehicle, within about 30 minutes or one hour, they often settle down and accept it. So, it is not a black and white situation.

By contrast, though, the domestic dog is pretty well fully integrated into human life and home. They are more attuned to the human way of life and part of that is getting into a vehicle. There is, also, the connection between dog and owner. This is the connection of an alpha animal, the human, and the pack member follower, which is the domestic dog.

If the owner gets into a car the dog follows because they trust the leader. The connection between owner and dog is alpha leader and follower whereas the connection between owner and cat is one of equality and that of mother (the human) to kitten (the cat), normally. That automatically makes it a different relationship.

I think that the manufacturers of the mini car in the UK should work out how to make a car cat friendly rather than dog friendly. However, that's going to be almost impossible because it means changing the personality and traits of a domestic cat rather than the interior components of a car. 

But one thing they might do is provide a built in, large cage at the rear with a window low down so they can see out of it with ease. Once they've settled down, they enjoy looking out the window. It is entirely different to their usual viewing. It is stimulating. There are some benefits for cats in cars. Although this only applies to long journeys when they have time to get used to it.

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