Showing posts with label cat feelings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cat feelings. Show all posts

Wednesday 4 January 2023

Do domestic cats feel the cold?

Do domestic cats feel the cold? There are six topics to be addressed in answering this question. 

Wildcat ancestor from hot climate

Firstly, the North African wildcat is the wild ancestor of the domestic cat. That wild cat's attitude towards the cold and towards heat is within the domestic cat. And the North African wildcats as you can imagine live in a very warm climate.

Do domestic cats feel the cold?
Do domestic cats feel the cold? Yes, of course but they tolerate it better than humans. Image: MikeB

Feline behaviour

This is why the domestic cat likes to be in a warm environment. That's why they like to be on your lap if they are lap cats. That is why they sleep in the airing cupboard where the hot water cylinder is. That is why my cat is right now in a utility room where the boiler (furnace) is situated.

We know that domestic cats like warmth. They seek it everywhere all the time. Therefore, by definition, they dislike cold. That's the first point.


The third point is that domestic cats are very tolerant. They are less complaining than humans. They are more tolerant of pain and distress. There are more tolerant of extreme conditions. That does not mean they don't feel the cold, it just means that they tolerate it better than humans at a psychological level. Their brain processes the feeling of discomfort, in this instance through being cold, better than humans do.

You will find stories on the Internet of domestic and stray cats being frozen to the ground, literally. In these instances, sometimes, when the cat has been rescued, they've had to amputate their paws because of frostbite. A horrible thought.

And of course, feral cats in many parts of the world survive winter in freezing conditions. That's why nice people who operate TNR programs provide feral cats with little homes which are insulated so they can at least feel warmer during those very cold days and nights.

Cat coats

We therefore know that domestic cats feel cold but they tolerate cold better. And one reason why they are better able to tolerate cold is because they have a permanent overcoat on them 👍✔️.

Clearly, some cats are better protected in this regard than others. The longhaired cats with a downy undercoat are going to feel less cold than sleek, single-coated cats.

The well-known Maine Coon cat example has a shaggy, semi-longhaired coat because they originate in the state of Maine as barn cats. They were semi-domesticated in that state, before they became show cats, in the 1800s and before.

Siberian cats
Siberian cats. Image in public domain.

The Siberian purebred cat is another example of a domestic cat with a history of coming from a cold part of the world. They have coats designed for cold climates.


Arguably they will be too hot in warm homes and in warm climates. A thought. An interesting further thought is this: Siberian cats and Maine Coon cats (for example - there are other breeds) would not have evolved through natural selection to have these warm, longhaired coats unless nature recognised the fact that they needed to keep warm and in doing that nature obviously agreed that they feel the cold. Evolution has protected these cats from cold conditions. It is, therefore, an admission that domestic cats and semi-domestic cats feel the cold.

Nervous system and anatomy

It has to be said that the anatomy of the domestic cat is really very similar to that of humans in very many ways. And certainly, in terms of feeling and detecting cold their nervous system and brain is very similar to that of humans. This strongly supports the idea that domestic cats feel the cold.

Longhaired feral cats

Interestingly, you will find that there are very few feral cats that are long haired because the gene that creates long hair is recessive. That means two carriers of the gene are going to have to meet and procreate to produce a litter of kittens that are longhaired. 

Most feral cats you see will be shorthaired. And they will feel the cold. But in feeling the cold, as mentioned, they process it in a way which enables them to accept it without complaint

Thursday 4 November 2021

Sweet hug from one stray cat to another

They very much look like sibling stray cats in a Mediterranean town somewhere. The weather is not bad there. In fact it can be great so not bad for stray cats from a climate standpoint which is why community cats are common in Mediterranean coastal towns where they are fed by tourists. These two look well fed and in good condition. I'd say that they are brothers. They are both tabby-and-whites, one brown/orange and the other with grey. I wonder if they are torbies?

SNuggling up to another for warmth and physical contact. Photo in public domain.

The beautiful aspect of the photo is the cuddle, the hug. He wants and needs that close contact with his sibling. It's probably partly to warm up (in may be in the early morning and a bit chilly) and to have that all important physical contact that cats enjoy when they can get it and when sutable.

It is an interesting thought as a lot of people think cats are entirely solitary. Not so for the domestic cat. And community cats are domestic cats, really. They live outside the home but have become socialised. Domestic cats are social animals to a large extent. They like to rest with some space between them but when they are friends they like the contact.

Scientists don't call them 'friends'. They call them 'associates'. I think they struggle with using human concepts on cats and don't want to be seen to humanise cats. But there is no reason to presume that cats can't have chemistry between themselves and can't even love each other as their anatomy is so similar. If their anatomy is so similar why can't their brains be similar too?

Love describes strong affections for another. Cats have emotions. They are sentient. They feel distress, depression and contentment. It is not a big step from there to having strong affection for another.

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Half of cats were 'put out' by having their owners at home all the time during lockdown. True? False?

It's reported in news media that a study by James Cook University found that about 50% of cat owners felt that their cats have been 'put out' by the presence of their owners because they were around far more than usual during the coronavirus pandemic due to homework and lockdowns. Conversely, they found that dogs were delighted that their owners were around far more often.

Human body language signal to cat elicits loving response. Screenshot.

I'd like to comment on that result briefly if I may. The result hints at the so-called independence and solitary nature of the domestic cat compared to the claimed more sociable and friendly nature of the dog. But this is a misconception. And I don't think the difference in behaviour between cats and dogs to the lockdown is due to the cat's less sociable nature compared to the dog.

I think it is because cats set up routines and rhythms with their owners. They are very much into routines and habits. And if you change those habits, they question it. It could be anything. But they'll be put out if you change any of their routines. 

If you move the furniture around, they'll be temporarily 'put out'. And the phrase 'put out' is probably wrong in this instance because it has negative connotations. When a cat owner is suddenly around more in the home their cat companion is not put out but surprised by the sudden change and take a short while to adjust.

I would say that domestic cats in countries where there were lockdowns and home working have been very happy to have their humans around far more often. This is because domestic cats are quite sociable creatures. They've learned this during about 10,000 years of domestication. They do become very attached to their owners, which is once again a product of domestication.

The domestic cat is not solitary like its wildcat ancestor. And in the best homes they become bonded to their human guardian.

I've not seen the full text of the study so I am relying upon a summary provided by news media which is a bit dangerous. But they do quote the study as follows:

"About 50% of cat owners reported that their cats were behaving in ways that were interpreted as being 'put out' by their owners all the time. Whereas almost 100% of dog owners reported that their dogs were just loving the fact that they were home all the time."

A final point should be made. The study relied on cat owners' observations of their cats to assess their feelings. This is unreliable. A lot of cat owners project their feelings onto their cat companion. And I suspect that this is what has happened in this study. The owner is home all the time, they look at their cat and they believe their cat is put out because they are anxious themselves about the possibility that their cat would be upset by their presence at home all day long. It's quite possibly a reflection of their own anxieties. This happens a lot and for dogs too.

The bottom line is that domestic cats prefer it when their owner is at home all the time. Their life is enhanced. Cats welcome it provided the owner is good at the job of looking after a domestic cat. If the opposite is the case, then human presence of any kind is going to be unwelcome.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Cat Facial Expressions

I would expect that a lot of people would say that cats do not make facial expressions. People who live with cats and who love their cats and therefore know them will understand that cats do make facial expressions. They are more subtle than the facial expressions of people. Is that because there are less facial muscles and/or because the feline face is covered in hair? Or perhaps a cat has less emotions that a person and therefore does not need to express them so much through his or her face. I'm not sure, but I am sure that cats do make facial expressions and here's a very good example:

This photograph has been praised, in fact, for showing both the human and the feline expression. This white cat with a very charming face has a very concerned and anxious expression. There is also a slight indication that she is relieved and that she feels secure being held by this fireman who himself has an expression which conveys to me that he is genuinely concerned about this cat's welfare and that he is pleased to have saved her from a fire.

It is a good photograph because, for me, it shows both human and cat in a similar light; both under some stress, both showing expressions that reflect the circumstances under which they have come together. It's a photograph of equality. I like that.

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