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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-10-2011, 07:39 AM Thread Starter
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Silly pet peeve

I find it a little irritating, now and again, when humans describe and explain animal (cat) behavior. Even experienced people often do this: they reduce all their behavior to automatic and mechanical functions. If they brush against your leg affectionately it's "blending the scents"; look them in their eyes and it's "in the animal world, that's a challenge", look away from them and its "showing subordination" etc etc etc.

While these things are true, its no different to lots of human behavior, but when it comes to humans, we don't strip our behavior of lots of other pertinent information and reduce them to the clinical behavior patterns of a near machine as we do with animals. Staring people in the eye is a challenge in lots of human societies too, but when someone stares at us, it's rude, and when a cat stares at another cat, its "in the animal kingdom, this is a challenge". Where I grew up in London, it was a challenge too and if you stared at a stranger, you were likely to get a "Oy you, are you screwing me out?" Looking away can be a display of subordination among humans as well as cats. Rubbing against your leg surely blends the scents, but there are other things going on too. The conscious reason they do it is to show and receive affection.

We dont describe human behavior this way, even when its almost exactly the same. If we did we would omit lots of important information. We dont describe shaking hands as rubbing limbs against each other to neutralize threats, or kissing as pressing labial muscles against each other to signal that the male and female are preparing for reproduction. If we did, we'd omit lots of other information that can cause misunderstandings. There are lots more examples, these are just a couple off the top of my head. Do a lot of people do this because they dont want to face that we too are a bundle of animal instincts and need to exalt ourselves to a higher plane?

I find that for a large portion of my gals behavior, I can find very close parallels in my own; this aids me plenty in understanding why she does things, which makes me think that drawing distinct lines between similar cat and human behavior can lead to a poorer understanding of them. Also, clearly related behavior that gets described in our case as something complex and beautiful, and in their case as the mechanics of a simplistic life form, just bugs me.

/rant
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-10-2011, 12:26 PM
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I understand what you're saying and agree to some extent.

But, it can go to the other extreme, anthropomorphism, which is a MUCH bigger pet peeve of mine. I'd rather have somebody be overly clinical and objective when discussing cat behavior than overly anthropomorphic. Cats are not humans. They don't think like people do, act like people do, have people thoughts/ideas/emotions, etc etc etc. Cats do the things that they do because they are cats. Humans do the things that we do because we are humans. And it bugs me to no end when people interpret very typical cat-ish behaviors as expressions of very human-ish thoughts or feelings.

I do believe that cats (and many animals, but staying on the subject of cats) absolutely have a higher capacity for affection, sadness, fear, loneliness, anger, etc than we often give them credit for. I also think they're intelligent critters. But I will not interpret my cats' behavior and impose my human thought processes and reasonings onto them. That's silly. I don't say that arrogantly or with any kind of human superiority complex. But cats and humans are different animals with different ways of interpreting situations, reacting to stimuli, thinking, feeling, etc. To assume that a cat will think about things and react to the things he's thought about just like a human is ignorant. To assume a human will think about things and react to the things he's thought about just like a cat is also ignorant. It's amazing and wonderful that there is enough interspecial communication crossover that there is (I think it's a beautiful thing that a human wants to pet a cat and a cat allows himself to be pet and members of both species find the experience enjoyable), but I won't kid myself into thinking cats and people are on the same level. I respect that cats do catly things for catly reasons.

And while we don't usually think about our daily functions, actions, emotions, behaviors, etc on a clinical level, there are fairly basic and primal explanations for most of it. All of human society and interaction could be described just like gorilla or chimpanzee groups. We may think we're so complex and high and mighty, but we still operate on a very basic level for primal reasons.


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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-10-2011, 01:14 PM
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Anthromorphism is a pet peeve of mine, too. It reeks of humans are the center of the universe and superior to every other life form elitism. Each species has their reason as to why they react a certain way, and yes, being animals most behaviors are instinctual. The thing is most of these animals have been around a lot longer than we have in one form or another (since they are a lot more adaptable to their environment than we could ever hope to be) so why are we constantly trying to psycho-analize them instead of just accepting the way things are, and that as humans, we may never 100% fully understand the ins and outs of it?
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-10-2011, 01:29 PM Thread Starter
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But one doesnt have to go to the other extreme either, which you guys primarily seem to have concentrated your replies on...I would suggest its not them that I'm claiming are almost human, but us that are a lot closer to animals than we often give us credit for.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-10-2011, 01:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by faithless View Post
But one doesnt have to go to the other extreme either, which you guys primarily seem to have concentrated your replies on...I would suggest its not them that I'm claiming are almost human, but us that are a lot closer to animals than we often give us credit for.
That I would absolutely agree with, and I like to analyze human culture/society/hierarchy/interaction etc in a fairly objective animal behaviorist way. Like I said earlier, we operate just like every other animal. We're motivated by core instincts such as social structure, food, territory, shelter, reproduction, survival. We just have the intelligence to make these things appear very complicated. Wars are just ongoing conflict between territorial groups, a very common thing among many social animals. But instead of going at each other with teeth and claws, we have guns and missiles and bombs. You can analyze even very basic day to day habits in an animalistic way. We urinate in a toilet because we instinctually are repelled by urine and feces because it's unsanitary and highly odorous. Most animals prefer to defecate away from their sleeping space and want to get rid of it by covering it up. We just make it really complicated with the technology of plumbing and sewage. But it's a basic primal urge, lol. And one could go so far as to call the creation of religion an instinct-motivated concept. Human beings have "won" the survival of the fittest game. We have created the concept of an afterlife, and thus we can never die. Survival is one of the instincts/motivations of every single organism on the planet (second only to reproduction). If we can conceptualize the fact that we'll never technically die because there's an afterlife, then we solved the puzzle of survival. So praying to deities in order to have an afterlife is no different than the instinct of a gazelle to outrun a lion or a cat to eat a mouse so it won't starve. Just survival instinct. But....that is far beyond the scope of this thread

I mean good lord...You'd think you were watching Animal Planet when you're in a high school cafeteria. It reeks of animal instinct and behavior.


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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-10-2011, 01:45 PM Thread Starter
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It cant possibly be elitist to say we're smarter than them? Surely, you must agree that we are...
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-10-2011, 01:49 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah, I agree with a lot of your post, prarie.

Quote:
And one could go so far as to call the creation of religion an instinct-motivated concept.
I would say, when humans need to understand something that theres too little information for us to understand, we fill in with imagination, or gut-feeling, if you prefer. Some people fill in with what they hope for.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-10-2011, 02:11 PM Thread Starter
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Were surely capable of much more complex calculations
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-10-2011, 02:17 PM
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I also don't think it's elitist to say we're more intelligent. That's obvious fact. Show me a cat that can do calculus and understand the theory and philosophy of quantum mechanics. Intelligence is just an evolved advantage. Speed is an evolved advantage of cheetahs, size is an evolved advantage, flexibility and agility is an evolved advantage of cats. We lost most of our physical advantages (physically, humans are pretty pitiful critters compared to the rest of the animal kingdom) as our intelligence got more and more advantageous. That's not elitist, just fact.

But even with that said, I believe that many animals have a higher ability to understand and analyze concepts and feel emotions than we give them credit for. Even if it's in a different way than we do.


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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-10-2011, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
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Well, as far as I know there are two different schools on the intelligence evolution theory. One, that I agree with, is that we have the same basic intelligence as them, though more evolved; and the other is that us being unique in having such a complex language defines us as having a wholly different intelligence. I dont believe that one much at all.
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