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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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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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Discussion Starter #4
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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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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Discussion Starter #6
It cant possibly be elitist to say we're smarter than them? Surely, you must agree that we are...
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Yeah, I agree with a lot of your post, prarie.

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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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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Discussion Starter #10
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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The bulk of my money goes to the cat in the form of cat food, huge amounts of toys and medical insurance for him.

I don't have health insurance

I don't have dental

I clean up his waste.

I provide many comfortable surfaces for him, often at the expense of me using that piece of furniture.

I do his laundry

I do his cleaning

I do his cooking

I give him pedicures

I brush his hair for him



....wait...who did we decide was smarter?
 

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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.
I find it hard to believe that animals don't have their own language. Cats have different meows and definitely are better at reading each other's body languages. All animals, I think, have some form of language. Humans, yes, have several, but I don't think that makes us smarter or better. We have proven to be failures at communication in a lot of ways.
 

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I'm kind of torn on this one. In some ways I would like to think that humans are far superior to other species. We build cities, drive in cars, bend other beings to our will (the methods we use varies, but most people do it...). Doesn't that make us the best?

On the other hand there are groups of chimps who have been seen (and documented) teaching their young to use tools. Chimps who hunt, and have a complex social structure. Dolphins and whales are vastly different from us, and yet they have also been proven to be very intelligent in the way that humans value intelligence.

The scientific world started out claiming that humans were superior in every way. We had language and no other creatueres did. We had culture, no other creatures did. We used tools and built things, and no other creatures did. We have compassion, love, grief, anger, war. And no other creatures did.

All of those theories have been proven wrong. All of them. Where do you draw the line? Well, IMO you can't. All the study that has been done on wild animals proves, and continues to prove, that we are all just animals. Some of us have different strengths than others, but I have a very hard time believing that we are superiour in every way.

Faithless, we are capable of higher calculations. And we are the only animals that are. As far as we know. How do you know whales aren't physicists? Elephants? No they don't have a language that we can understand, but why is that the measuring stick? Just because we can't understand them means they don't have anything of value to say? Now there's a truely slippery slope!

I also agree with the first theory. That we have the same intelligence as them, just more evolved. But I'm unsure about the more evolved bit.
Most animals don't completely ruin the world for everything around them. They don't poison and ruin the wilderness. We do. I know a tiger is more evolved than I am at hunting and killing. Does that make them better than me? If I'm in his jungle it sure does! Does it make him better than me all the time? Not if I have a fire.
So why would or (relatively few IMO) advantages overrule or supercede theirs?

/rant. Sorry, this is something that bothers me.
 

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I think what you think of as intelligence is very relative. Sorry to say, but who cares how booksmart we are? Our 'intelligence' is an adaptation to our environment. Basically, we have put ourselves in such a sheltered environment we can't really use our bodies as weapons or to protect ourselves against the elements anymore. We are frail creatures and therefore needed to develop something else in order to survive...in comes our intelligence. Try surviving one night in the woods without any weapons, electronics, water bottles, bringing in food, shoes, or clothing, etc. Most people would be in real trouble and may not even make it out.

Many species have survived for millions of years (again way longer than we have), and can't do calculus. Does this really mean we are better. It could just take one huge natural disaster to wipe us out just like any other species.

When was the last time you saw a croc or a shark needing to figure out quantum physics? But again, it's because they are better suited to use their bodies and do not need these add-ons we have developed. It's not because they are stupid or we are smarter. It's merely each species has the evolutionary adaptations, which are best suited for its own specific environment.
 

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Leaving off the question of intelligence and going back to "clinical" explanations of cat behavior as opposed to "anthromorphising", I truly believe that anthromorphism is by far the most dangerous. Thinking that the kitten defecates in the hallway instead of in his litter box out of mischief or spite, when the truth is, the litter box needs cleaning out or that cat scratches the couch because he is mad at you instead of the basic fact that he has no other place to scratch and this is an instinctual behavior in cats that serves very real physiological and developmental purposes, leads to cats abandoned, put down and in shelters.
I find cat behavior (animal behavior in general, really) fascinating. Knowing how my kitten's mother would treat him and understanding why my cat does things from a "clinical" viewpoint (why do cats cover their feces and urine, why do they head butt and rub their faces on things, etc) helps me understand them and is interesting to me.
Knowing that cats interpret a direct stare as a challenge and that they have stare-downs with each other as dominance assertion is fascinating as well as useful.
Just my two cents worth.
 

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Knowing that cats interpret a direct stare as a challenge and that they have stare-downs with each other as dominance assertion is fascinating as well as useful.
Just my two cents worth.
I agree. People, while we do the same things amongst ourselves, we do it without thinking. We don't know how to apply these actions to other animals. In knowing how a cat thinks, such as "staring at a cat is intimidating", we can better understand them, and learn how to better communicate inter-species. I have no problem with people applying this sort of information to other animals. It's the opposite, of thinking cats think like a human, that is ignorant and completely unhelpful.
 

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Leaving off the question of intelligence and going back to "clinical" explanations of cat behavior as opposed to "anthromorphising", I truly believe that anthromorphism is by far the most dangerous. Thinking that the kitten defecates in the hallway instead of in his litter box out of mischief or spite, when the truth is, the litter box needs cleaning out or that cat scratches the couch because he is mad at you instead of the basic fact that he has no other place to scratch and this is an instinctual behavior in cats that serves very real physiological and developmental purposes, leads to cats abandoned, put down and in shelters.
I find cat behavior (animal behavior in general, really) fascinating. Knowing how my kitten's mother would treat him and understanding why my cat does things from a "clinical" viewpoint (why do cats cover their feces and urine, why do they head butt and rub their faces on things, etc) helps me understand them and is interesting to me.
Knowing that cats interpret a direct stare as a challenge and that they have stare-downs with each other as dominance assertion is fascinating as well as useful.
Just my two cents worth.
100% in agreement here
 

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I should add that my examples might not all be accurate. I am by no means a cat behavior expert. They are just examples and if I got anything wrong, please let me know.
 

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They don't think like people do, act like people do, have people thoughts/ideas/emotions, etc etc etc.
When one of my cats comes up to me and cuddles me for hours with their constant affection showing at every minute, I have a hard time believing you.

Maybe your cats don't do that so you don't feel those feelings we exchange with each other.

Comparing cats to humans on some level of feeling really isn't a far stretch considering we are both evolved mammals.
 
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