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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-04-2015, 06:56 PM Thread Starter
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Cats learning about what you are

We love our kitties but we also know that some are not as smart as others. My old fierce "cat from hades" Vanilla was a genius cat, while my recently departed RJ was amiable and a great buddy but about average in KIQ (kitty IQ).

Anyway, our little newcomer, Callie, about 5-6 mos old, is a sweet little gal but she is working hard to learn what's "me" -- I use a cane or walker and she runs over and nuzzles my cane tip just as she does my ankles.

In bed, she just seems to be learning what is "me" under the duvet. At first she would run over and pounce on my arm or hands but as soon as I would remove my arm from beneath the cover, she'd stop.

She seems to be learning that the large portion of movement under the cover is actually me. Which sounds odd but in reality, cats "think" that people are cats at first and then learn that people are larger and shaped different. As I say, it sounds odd, but genetically, cats don't have the initial instinct to live in close quarters with humans, which are larger and shaped different.

Way I see it, cats' instinct only prepares them for living with other cats, whereas their "knowledge" of humans is learned a bit at a time. And this depends on the individual smartness of the kitty. I love my little Callie but I think that she's not exactly the sharpest kitty around. My other cats have learned stuff more rapidly.

Regarding human size and shape, since a cat's instincts only "teach" the cat about fellow cats in the "den" but not for large and ungainly humans, that's a learned response.

So -- correct me if I'm wrong on this -- a cat has to LEARN that the large gawky thing under the blanket is part of the human friend, and not some alien critter. So the still-learning kitty might "attack" the human's legs or feet without knowing that it's actually the nice human's lower portions.

Sure, the cats still play with our feet as a fun game, but right now, I think that Callie is still learning not to necessarily jump on anything that moves and that the human might get a bit grumpy, ha ha.

So... do you think that cats have to learn about our shapes, in that yes, a cat, like any sentient mammal, recognize other animals, but genetically, cats aren't instinctively "ready" to live with a human and need to learn this new "skill"?
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-05-2015, 06:06 AM
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Well... I can see where you're coming from. I think cats have to learn living with humans, absolutely.
They soon figure out we are a great source of food. Beyond that, I think it depends on the individual cat. Some seem to be extremely curious about how "our world" works and others couldn't care less, till feeding time.
But one thing is for certain. They never really get tired of chasing those "things" that move under the covers! lol It's a game to them.
You pulling your arm out just ends the game.

Oh, yea, they obviously learn to try not to irritate, at least to the point that you won't "attack" them. But, I believe cat's don't really give that much thought to what irritates you.
As for your shape? You're just big... a big oafy cat, that has the ability to pop tins open, tear packets, and open those darn little containers that have the treats in them.
Outside of that you are pretty sad, to them lol You can't do cat things and if anything, they feel for you... ya big oaf LOL


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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-05-2015, 10:34 AM Thread Starter
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You're correct about how cats regard us. I've developed this "Difference between Cats and Dogs"...
Dogs think that they are people.
Cats on the other hand know that they're cats. It's just that they also think that we're cats, too, albeit a particularly clumsy and dull-witted version.

I do however think that cats learn that you simply don't want to play at 3am or that you enjoy having your feet grabbed under the covers. Some cats are of course simply mischievous and others are more sedate.

Callie thus far is doing fine. I had to squirt her a couple times when she wouldn't let my feet alone and that lesson has sunk in, it seems (squirted from a plant spray bottle filled with plain water of course). She's a sweetheart and a great little kitty, so things are going along nicely.

I do however know that some cats are simply not the brightest kitties on the string. I had a great little rescue cat Whiskers but he was clueless about stuff, while his kitty roommates were on track. Some cats also never seem to recover from their traumatic feral/stray beginnings while some adapt quickly to being an indoor and homey critter.

My wonderful huge orange fuzzball RJ (RB July 2014) was the most friendly dude and easy going cat you could ever have, which was good since in his prime he weighed 18 pounds and could still jump way high. He was about average in KIQ, like some college buddy whom you'd always enjoy going out to have a beer with but would in no way look forward to attending the opera.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-05-2015, 01:20 PM
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Intelligence levels do vary greatly and not only down to background and up-bringing. Two of mine are brother and sister and could not be less alike - she is highly intelligent, he is the dopiest cat I have ever had! It also has to be admitted that the physical differences are huge as well even though they are from the same litter. They have been together their whole lives, shared many experiences but are still totally different.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-05-2015, 01:30 PM
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LOL!! Odd doesn't do much attacking of things under blankets anymore, but when I am making the bed, especially the sheets, he HAS to be in there. He jumps up on the bed and loves getting covered with the sheets. I am forced to stop what I am doing and play with him, lol. Now if I could just figure out why he likes being rubbed down with my FEET so much!
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-07-2015, 01:04 AM
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Interesting question katdad! I'd tend to agree with you that a cat is not necessarily - or naturally - going to make the association between a visible human head above the covers and the invisible rest of human under the covers. You stick your arm out, and Callie stops pouncing. She recognizes your arm. But I'd think that before she understands that it's your arm moving under the covers, she'd have to understand that your arm is still your arm whether or not it's visible. Does she wonder where your arm is when it's not sticking out of the bed? Probably not. She doesn't need to wonder about it. So it would be a fairly complex learning process for a cat to understand that it's your arm making the movement.

How quickly a cat learns such things is undoubtedly one way to measure kitty IQ. None of my kitties have been particularly bright, my first one in particular. That judgment might not be totally fair though, because I got her as 4-ish month old kitten, so I saw her going through the same learning process that you're seeing in Callie, whereas my other two I adopted as adults.

However, I will also put out there that even the kitties who don't seem very bright to us are probably smarter than we think. If they don't do the things that very smart kitties do, is it because they're inherently not capable, or is it because they're lazy and knowing those things isn't important to their well-being? In other words, if they had to learn that the thing moving under the covers was the arm of the human who feeds them, and that if they kept pouncing on that thing, they wouldn't get fed, I think most cats would get pretty smart pretty fast.

I always thought my Celia was slow, and yet, when she started to need frequent vet visits a couple of years ago, it took her all of two instances of me closing all the bedroom doors to understand that this was the prelude to the carrier coming out and her being put in it and that she had best hide under the loveseat immediately. She learned in no time to associate my leaving without locking the door and then returning in a minute with trips to the vet. So when it matters to her well-being, she is suddenly a feline Einstein.

Callie is still young, so everything is still new and fascinating. But she might never stop liking those things moving under the covers. Celia still likes to pounce on my feet occasionally, and she's 14.5 years old. I used to keep a wand toy by the bed with me.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-07-2015, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by katdad View Post
He was about average in KIQ, like some college buddy whom you'd always enjoy going out to have a beer with but would in no way look forward to attending the opera.
This totally made me laugh this morning! Thanks for that.

You're totally right, I think. What you're talking about is 'object permanence.' Is my arm still my arm if it is under the blanket? Cats have the ability to learn object permanence, but it's not something they're born doing- and some cats don't learn it! Dogs can learn object permanence as well and they generally have a little better understanding of the concept.

I think, though, that it has less to do with genetics, and more to do with developmental psychology. After all, human babies have to learn object permanence as well- hence games like 'peekaboo.' And some babies, just like some kitties, never really get the concept.

Just my two cents on the subject- I'm a little bit of a psychology nerd so I couldn't help but chime in!
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-07-2015, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the good comments!

I tend to think it has a bit to do with that fact that we're so much larger and our kitties have to learn this, while they're probably instinctively pre-programmed to recognize cat-size things beneath the covers. That's just a guess.

I do know that Callie has learned not to just pounce instantly nowadays, so she's picking up on the normal indoor cat behavior rules. She does love lying across my feet while outside the cover, my feet inside, and she then snoozes there often. Which is fine.

I do know that some cats are simply sharper than others. My old cat from hades Vanilla was a kitty genius. When she wanted her catbox cleaned, she'd come over where I sat, would get up on her hind legs, and tap my leg. If I ignored her, she'd tap again, then start the scratching! I'd get up and she'd "lead" me across the house, checking over her shoulder to see if I'd become lost or had forgotten. She'd get to her catbox and then stand there and look at it, then meow at me "Clean it and clean it now!"

And then she'd watch each step carefully to ensure that I did everything just right.

Same for feeding her. And when she decided I needed to come to bed, she'd come over and "suggest" that it was bedtime. If I didn't obey, the scratching and biting would commence.

She had me pretty well trained.

And she was soooo smart! "Vanilla, get your squeaky mouse" and she'd run and get that particular toy. "Vanilla, where's your ball?" and she'd find it.

I've had some pretty smart cats but never like Vanilla.

Callie now seems about average. Which is fine with me. I didn't "hire" for her brains. ha ha
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-09-2015, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Arianwen View Post
Intelligence levels do vary greatly and not only down to background and up-bringing. Two of mine are brother and sister and could not be less alike - she is highly intelligent, he is the dopiest cat I have ever had! It also has to be admitted that the physical differences are huge as well even though they are from the same litter. They have been together their whole lives, shared many experiences but are still totally different.
Could be their genes!

"Same litter" doesn't mean same father!!!!
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-09-2015, 05:25 PM
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Absolutely! Although sometimes I could almost believe they weren't even the same species! LOL!

Last edited by marie73; 02-09-2015 at 05:32 PM.
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