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June 18, 2014

BQ Book Club: Cat Sense by John Bradshaw

You know those little balls of fur and love and unprovoked anger that curl up with you at night? Ever wonder what's going on behind those glowing green eyes? Author and researcher John Bradshaw sheds some light on the history, evolution and behavior of cats in his book Cat Sense. He states that “New scientific techniques such as brain imaging have revealed that all mammals, and therefore cats, have the mental machinery necessary to produce many of the same emotions we feel even though they probably experience them in a much more in-the-moment way than we do.” You probably already knew that, but now there's science to back you up. Here's some of the best stuff I learned from this book.

  • It's not true that your cat is sitting on your lap just because she's cold and wants to leech your strength away (think about that fur coat she never takes off). She's doing that because she loves you and wants to be near you. In fact, she probably only hops down when she gets a little too warm.

  • Cat eyeballs are very close in size to human eyeballs, just in a smaller face. Creepy, right?

  • Cats love to destroy. You know it's true. How long does it take for your kitty to get bored with that expensive, “highly researched” toy you were so excited about? Now how about that crumpled up piece of paper you threw at him for begging for your ice cream? Turns out they get bored and frustrated with toys that last too long because play is tied into the hunting instinct. So if they're not annihilating it they're not winning the fight, and no cat is going to stand for that.

  • Although they get attached to their owners cats tend to be mighty bitchy around each other. That's because in the wild another cat is seen as competition. Cats are solitary individuals who maintain territories by strutting around and peeing on things.

  • They're not emotionless they're just less human-like than other animals in how they show emotion. Like when they bite as a way of saying “I love you.” or when they bite as a way of saying “don't fucking touch me right now.” Or when they bite as a way of saying “I can bite if I feel like it, okay?” All of which can make them a little hard to read.

  • Cats are really only semi-domesticated at this point in their evolution. They've been interacting with humans for a much shorter time than dogs. An example is the fact that cats don't need to hunt to survive anymore – they have a bowl of fancy feast waiting for them at home – they just haven't quite lost the drive yet. But it seems to be fading which is why they often don't kill or eat what they hunt. They're not the sick, gleeful sadists they seem to be, they're just not hungry enough to get serious about it.

  • Cats can, and probably should, be trained. Imagine a world where you can tell fluffy to get into her cat carrier for a trip to the vet and she actually does it?! Or plays fetch. Or uses (and flushes!) the toilet. These things can all be done even if they get a little silly. But really what it's about is making it easier for cats to co-exist with humans and with each other on a crowded planet, by helping them get a little more domesticated all the time. Just not too much. We wouldn't want them to stop doing stuff like shredding the furniture or leaving dead mice on the kitchen floor. Would we?



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