Showing posts with label brain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label brain. Show all posts

Saturday 2 March 2024

What do domestic cats dream about? My thoughts.

What do domestic cats dream about? 
Past experiences and emotions reprocessed in the rarefied and distorted environment of a dream in order to mentally process them to help make them emotionally acceptable. - My thoughts.
You can tackle the question in the title in two ways: you can rely on your personal experience in observing your cat and how they behave when they are dreaming or you can rely on research which in the USA would suggest that cats may dream about things that have happened during the day or in the distant or recent past which is similar to the way dogs and humans dream.

We are going to have to guess and that's exactly what Dr Desmond Morris has suggested. It's a question that he can't answer and neither can anybody else with certainty but I think we can rely on our personal, human experiences and the dreams that we can recollect and what they mean.

I have suggested that a lot of the dreams we have are a means to divest ourselves of anxieties. A lot of my dreams are about becoming anxious in trying to do something that can't be done such as catch a train at a station which is impossible to get at or hitting a golf ball which is impossible to hit or take an exam which I am bound to fail. These are expressions of frustration in trying to get things done and the anxiety that they produce.

Indoor/outdoor cat

In dreaming about them I believe that we can divest ourselves of these anxieties and renew the brain for the next day's fight.

I know that my cat dreams and has nightmares sometimes or a feline's version of nightmares. He might suddenly wake up with a start and he might vocalise his difficult experiences during his nightmare. I can only guess that he has encountered a fox or had some other very bad experience in his dream which has woken him up.

But his dream will be based on his day-to-day experiences, possibly a particular bad one that occurred outside in which he now dreams about. It may have happened a long time ago or recently.

Indoor cat

I don't think you can expect a full-time indoor cat to have the same kind of dreams experienced by an indoor/outdoor cat.

In fact, I would suggest that a full-time indoor cat is rarely if ever going to have nightmares unless they are being bullied in a multi-cat home. And I would suggest that their dreams are going to be less difficult and painful or distressing particularly if they are well looked after in a pleasant home by a nice and considerate caregiver.

If it's true that a person or cat processes their anxieties in their dreams, I would expect very few dreams to be recalled by domestic cats that live a cosseted and pleasant indoor lifestyle. 

They have nothing nasty to process. They should have no anxieties because all their needs are met. They have security, warmth and food and a loving caregiver. There is no room therefore for anxiety. Perhaps they just dream about nice things. Every dream is a pleasant experience.

Dreaming experiences

But the bottom line is that either people or cats dream the things they've experienced but in a dreamlike way which is distorted but ultimately, in my case, these negative dreams boil down to a feeling of anxiety and my brain's desire to process them to make them more acceptable. 

The image is by Bing Co-pilot using DALL E 3.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

Monday 29 August 2022

Is my cat going to remember me when I come back from college in three months' time?

The woman asked the following: Do cats forget their owners? I’m leaving my cat for three months cause I’m going to college and I’m gonna miss him so much:,) is he going to remember me when I’m back?

Is my cat going to remember me when I come back from college in three months' time?
This is the loved cat. Photo: u/Cloutlordcatto on

She asked the question on the website. My response to her question is as follows:

Provided that you have a very good relationship with your cat (you clearly have), he will remember you immediately you talk to him because he'll remember your voice and he will be pleased to meet you again. I can guarantee it. Domestic cats have good long-term memories. There are stories of cats remembering their owners when reunited after years apart. The link below goes to an article which I wrote some time ago about the long-term memory of domestic cats. Cats have good long-term memory. He is a super-looking cat by the way. Good luck at college.

Perhaps the obvious point to make is this: there is no reason why cats should not have decent memories. Anatomically speaking domestic cats are very similar to humans. You will not have to go far on the Internet to find stories of cats remembering their owners after being separated for months. 

And, of course, domestic cats need memories in order to 'survive'. Their ability to form memory comes from their wild cat ancestor. The North African wildcat, needs the ability to form memories in order to survive by, for example, avoiding places and animals which are hazardous to it. Domestic cats can for example smell the fading scent of urine that has been deposited by another cat as a marker on their territory. In order to make this work they have to be able to memorise the previous scent to make a comparison.

And, of course, cats allowed outside remember their home range. They remember the markers and major objects in their territory. They remember cats coming into their territory. And of course, they remember visitors to their home, often by the body odour of the visitor. Once a domestic cat knows that a stranger is safe, they will attach the body odour of the person to the knowledge that they are safe. When the person visits again even months later, they will smell the person and recognise them through their body odour.

And sometimes cats been missing for years and are finally reunited with their owner because of a microchip in their neck. And when they go up to their owner, they show through their behaviour that they recognise them. And they settle in to their old home within minutes. It is as if they never left so, yes, domestic cats have good long-term memories and it makes sense that they do.

On a personal level, years ago, I left my then female cat at a boarding cattery when I went to America to do some research on cats and when I came back, she recognised me immediately. She recognised my voice before she saw me. This was entirely expected. I had been away for two weeks.

Quick update: I have just bumped into a study which talks about cat short-term memory. It's interesting for this reason: when cats walk through and over obstacles, they have to memorise the positioning of those obstacles to allow their hind legs to avoid them. And you may have seen those astonishing videos on TikTok of cats navigating many obstacles placed in a corridor. They walk through these obstacles without knocking any of them over. They are employing their short-term memory to prevent their hind legs making contact with the obstacles which are quite close together.

I have written about domestic cat working memory. CLICK HERE TO READ IT IF YOU WISH.

I would be pleased if you would share your experiences of your cat's powers of long-term memory!

The article ends here


You can ignore this section because it is here to improve SEO (search engine optimisation).

I have been trying to find out how memory in a person or cat's brain works. I'm not sure that people know precisely how it does work. The answers that I have found on the Internet are rather vague. But one scientist says that "long-term memories must literally be built into the brain's synapses". Synapses are those areas where neurons are connected. They say that to build a memory which can last years, neurons must manufacture new proteins and expand the docks, as it were, to make the transmitter travelling run more efficiently".

The University of Queensland Australia, says that "Memory is the reactivation of a specific group of neurons, formed from persistent changes in the strength of connections between neurons". It seems, therefore, to me, that memories are embedded into neurons perhaps in protein molecules and the memory is recalled when the neuron is reactivated. I am simply interpreting what I read and don't take what I state as verbatim truth!

Wednesday 10 November 2021

Domestic cats can tell where you are from your voice and distinguish between voices

I'm not sure that this study furthers the sum knowledge of cat behaviour but at least it is quite nice to have a study confirm what most of us already know.

The study found that the cats "can mentally picture where others are through cues like sound". What that means to me is that domestic cats can visualise the location of a person by hearing the sound of their voice only. This is called 'socio-spatial cognition'. CNN have phrased the skill thus: Cats can track your 'invisible presence' using only their ears. As I say below - no surprise. How do they think cats catch mice in long grass? Through sound that's how. 😇

The large ears of a male Devon Rex in Russia
The large ears of a male Devon Rex in Russia. Photo: Олеся Бондарева (Russia).

Cats can also distinguish between different people and therefore different voices and sounds produced by them. Finally they can also recognise emotional sounds. This is why cats respond to the sound of their owner calling them.

The ability to create mental images is present in other animals such as meerkats and vervet monkeys.

The study took place at Kyoto University. The lead researcher is Saho Takagi. She said that she has always been interested in cats' hearing.

The researchers placed speakers apart from each other and out of sight. It seems that they used the voices of the cats' owners. The voice of a person was emitted from these speakers at different location. The participating cats recognised the sounds at these different locations.

I think I can provide a practical example. Many years ago I had placed by now deceased female cat in a boarding cattery for 2 weeks. On my return to collect her as I walked into the large room where there were pens, I called out. I couldn't see her and vice versa. A worker there told me that she turned towards my voice. She recognised my voice which to be honest was entirely expected and of course she knew where it was coming from.

ASSOCIATED: Is my cat losing her hearing?

The reason why I think the study is rather pointless is because we know that cats have incredibly mobile ear flaps driven by around 30 separate muscles. They hear behind them and think nothing of not turning their head to towards the source of the sound. They know where the sound is coming from, locate it and don't even bother to turn their head.

ASSOCIATED: What is the hearing range of a cat?

The incredible mobility of their ear flaps supports the notion that cats pinpoint sounds very accurately. In fact they can detect the position of small prey animals by sound alone. This skill is also present in the serval which has enormous ear flaps. They detect small mammals in long grass by sound alone and pounce on them without seeing the prey animal first.

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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