How does my cat know it's a cat? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-02-2005, 07:58 PM Thread Starter
 
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How does my cat know it's a cat?

I've always wondered - how does your cat know it's a cat? I don't know if you are aware of this, but most animals can't recognise themselves in the mirror. I read that it's just apes and similar simians that can recognise themselves in the mirror.

So I've got Shooshi - a female tortoiseshell and white cat, she doesn't know what she looks like, so how does she know she's a cat? And if she doesn't know she's a cat, how does she know a small dog, for example, is a dog? Why doesn't she think it's another cat? LOL

I guess cats have a distinct smell and this is different to other animals but Shooshi doesn't even know she is a cat so how does she know what other animals are?

It's all rather odd. Got me baffled. Anyone got an ideas? Perhaps a vet could explain.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-02-2005, 08:04 PM
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That's certainly a fascinating topic, and worthy of discussion. I'm going to move it to our Cat Chat forum.


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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-02-2005, 08:14 PM
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Pretty existential!!

I'm sure a cat knows it's a unique being. In my opinion, not only that, but thinks it's the center of the known universe.

A cat certainly knows another cat when it sees/smells/hears one, so if it knows another animal is a cat, it must know that it's a cat itself. I think the problem with mirrors is two-fold: they're two-dimensional, and they have no cat scent. Nevertheless, I have known of cats that respond to their own reflection in a mirror as if it's another cat. And I've also known of cats to totally ignore a reflection. Why it should be some one way and some the other, I don't really know.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-02-2005, 08:33 PM
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My cat is absolutely convinced that she is the goddess of all she sees.

Actually my husband and I have had the discussion as to whether Velvet realizes how cute she is. He says she does as she has seen herself in the mirror as we hold her in front of it. I have never be sure she was actually connecting that she was looking at herself.
At this point she probably thinks she is the only one of her kind in existance. It has been ages since she has seen another cat.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-02-2005, 08:53 PM Thread Starter
 
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My cat doesn't go out so she rarely sees another cat. I think size could be another factor. Shooshi chases her tail so she must know the length of her body so if she were to see a bigger animal she would know it's not like her.

All animals have this innate ability to know they are a particular animal. Take animals in the wild as an example. Deer will flock together and will run as one group if they sense they're under attack from another animal. It's a bit weird how all animals seem to know they're one particular animal because most animals have tiny brains and don't have much or any capacity to think about much other than food and survival.

Cats are more intelligent than most animals so I guess they can discriminate but it would be interesting to know why cats don't think they're dogs! A barking cat would be unusual.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-02-2005, 09:47 PM
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My five cats grew up together. So they are pretty sure they are cats.

However, my cat tribe knows who is the alpha one
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-02-2005, 09:52 PM
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Like human beings, they identify with their mother and litter mates. That's one reason it's best to make sure a kitten stays with its mother until 12 weeks. I rescued a tiny kitten who was raised by my collies. I think she identified with them somewhat. She never had any fear of dogs, and the friendships lasted throughout her life and theirs. I'm sure you have heard of modeling. Baby chicks identify with the first being they see when they come out of the eggs.

Cats also, as Tim said, identify others by scent. That's why it's important to assure that a new cat has the same scent as the cat in residence. A drop of vanilla on the back or the neck and an exchange of bedding help with that problem. Nevertheless, cats often like to take their time with a new cat. A kitten, however, will almost always try to make friends. If it hasn't had time to learn socialization, it might be afraid of everything that moves- until it settles in. It has to learn what animals are safe, and which aren't.

I think that cats believe: I purr; therefore, I am.




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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-02-2005, 10:19 PM
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I wish I could purr!! <pout> <pout>
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-03-2005, 01:29 AM
 
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Ohhhh, what a Zen question, like the one hand clapping! I'll have to ponder this. It *is* very interesting.

I have also noted that my kitties don't notice mirrors per se, but they seem to know that the others' reflections are not real cats.

And I've also noticed what Jeanie discussed about modeling. Mozart is our first cat, and he spent 1 mth alone with us before we adopted again. He was about 8 wks old then. We get the distinct impression that he thinks he's a person sometimes.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-03-2005, 09:35 AM Thread Starter
 
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I think people are right about kittens becoming aware of their identity through their mother's protection. Close contact with the mother cat must make kittens aware of what they look like. I guess if a cat were born and raised by dogs it would think it were a dog.
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