Ah cats. Darlings of the internet. Dogs may be man’s best friend, but cats are the small, furry mirrors into everything that makes us total jerks. We can relate to their aloofness and utter disregard for that which annoys them, and like many of us they crave attention so long as it is on their own terms.
So when I read this paper by Atsuko Saito and Kazutaka Shinozuka* I was pleasantly surprised that most cats do indeed give a crap. In my experience, the only way to get a feline to come hither when called is to shake a treat bag at them. But the research seems to show that cats do indeed recognize our voices, and sometimes even acknowledge that they heard us. The data seems to show that cats indeed care about us as owners. Just not that much. Check out that line for “displacement”. I left many of the lower ranking reactions (vocalization, tail movement) off the chart, but I had to include that one: Nearly all the cats in the study couldn’t even be bothered to move when called.
Yet even though their original roles as mousers have been relegated to the occasional “gift” left at the foot of the bed, we still find them great to have around. Despite the hissing and scratching and early morning head-butts, we find great joy in their company. Because for every temperamental jerk-cat, there’s a sweet, purring, shoulder-sitting face nuzzler. Like a Swedish bank hostage, we become conditioned to appreciate those little kindnesses.
I’ll leave you with the Ode to Spot, by Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation
Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature,
An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature;
Your visual, olfactory, and auditory senses
Contribute to your hunting skills and natural defenses.
I find myself intrigued by your subvocal oscillations,
A singular development of cat communications
That obviates your basic hedonistic predilection
For a rhythmic stroking of your fur to demonstrate affection.
A tail is quite essential for your acrobatic talents;
You would not be so agile if you lacked its counterbalance.
And when not being utilized to aid in locomotion,
It often serves to illustrate the state of your emotion.
O Spot, the complex levels of behavior you display
Connote a fairly well-developed cognitive array.
And though you are not sentient, Spot, and do not comprehend,
I nonetheless consider you a true and valued friend.
New episode of Strip Search today. Warning: It’s intense! Watch at your own risk.