Saturday, January 11, 2014

‘Cat Sense’ Unravels Some Mysteries

Review of the new book Cat Sense How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet by John Bradshaw:

To this day the population of domestic cats is maintained in a semiferal state by the practice of neutering. About the only males available for domestic female cats to breed with are the wildest and least people-friendly tomcats who have escaped into the feral cat population. Some 85 percent of all cat matings, Dr. Bradshaw writes, are arranged by cats themselves, meaning with feral cats.

The result is that when cats interact with people, they have to rely almost entirely on their natural social behaviors, which are not highly developed. The strongest social bond is between a mother and her kittens. Kittens purr as a signal to their mothers to stay still and feed them, and they knead their mother’s belly to keep the milk flowing.

Also in the cat behavioral repertory are grooming and rubbing against known cats. When cats rub up against you or invite their head to be stroked, they are treating you as a nonhostile cat. An upright tail is a greeting sign between cats, and “is probably the clearest way cats show their affection for us,” Dr. Bradshaw writes.

I am not very savvy when it comes to cats but one my favorite lines ever is from Montaigne, In Defense of Raymond Sebond he wrote Man's superiority over the animals a delusion based on pride:

Presumption is our natural and original malady. The most calamitous and fragile of all creatures is man, and at the same time the proudest. He sees and feels himself placed here in the mire and dung of the world, attached and fixed in the worst, most lifeless, and most corrupt part of the universe, on the meanest floor of the house and the farthest removed from the vault of heaven, with animals of the worst condition of the three [of those that fly, swim, and live on the ground]; and he goes installing himself in his imagination that he makes himself God's equal, that he ascribes to himself divine attributes, that he winnows himself and separates himself from the mass of other creatures, determines the share allowed the animals, his colleagues of faculties and powers as seem good to him. How does he know, by the effort of intelligence, what inwardly and secret moves the animals? By what comparison of them with ourselves does he deduce the stupidity which he attributes to them? When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is not making me her pastime more than I make her mine?"

Montaigne wrote this 1576 and now for a moment reflect and think how little has change in 500 years. 

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