A British biologist who spent the past 30 years studying cat behavior is claiming that domesticated cats aren’t all that domesticated, and believe that their owners are “larger, non-hostile cats” instead of another species.
According to Dr. John Bradshaw, cats live in a state of arrested development. In his newly released book Cat Sense, Bradshaw argues that unlike dogs, whose physiques and behaviors were modified by deliberate breeding programs, cats were never bred for a purpose outside of the purview for which they were already valued: catching rodents and being adorable.
The current domestic cat population remains in a semi-feral state, Bradshaw argues, because 85 percent of cat-matings are “arranged by cats themselves.” The result of remaining in this semi-feral state is that they behave toward humans as they would to other cats — but not just any other cat, Bradshaw claims, but their mother.
According to Bradshaw, the strongest natural bond in the repertoire of cat behavior is between a mother and her kittens. Purring is a signal to a mother that she should feed them, and the “kneading” actions that domesticated cats perform on their owners replicates how kittens stimulate the flow of breast milk.
In addition to “making bread,” other signs of arrested development in cats include the manner in which they approach their owners. The desire to rub against their owners’ legs, their presentation of their heads to be scratched, and the upright tail with which they approach their owners are “the clearest way cats show their affection for us,” Bradshaw claims. All of these behaviors indicate that cats consider their owners as they would their mothers, as a “larger, non-hostile cat.”
Bradshaw also conjectures that cats bring their kills indoors not because they are attempting to share them, but because they realize, upon returning, that they prefer the taste of canned cat food.
[Image copyright Megan Nowell Photography]