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'Cat Sense' provides an interesting look into feline behavior

A new book called 'Cat Sense' has some interesting insight into our cats' behavior, and it may not all be what we tend to think.
Patrick Mitchell

Why does your cat treat you the way it does? The looks, the head-bonks, the rubs, the kneading; why does she do all of this? According to an article in "The New York Times," John Bradshaw's book, "Cat Sense," talks about how your cat thinks you're just a big cat. Bradshaw, who is a professor of biology at the University of Bristol, has spent over 30 years of his life studying animal behavior in general, and cat behavior in specific.

We attribute human emotions, motives, and even thoughts to our cats. If we didn't, there'd be no "Sad Cat Diary." There'd be no LOLCats. We probably wouldn't have Grumpy Cat (a.k.a Tardar Sauce), Henri, the Existential Cat, or Sam, the cat that has eyebrows that give him a worried expression.

We wouldn't speculate about the hidden motives behind bringing dead mice to us, and we certainly wouldn't feel all warm and cozy inside when we interpret their lovey-dovey look as…lovey-dovey.

The basis for Bradshaw's belief is the idea that cats are still, more or less, wild animals. We've never bred them for a specific purpose. What happened is that they came to us because our food storage attracted rodents, and we kept them around because they were useful as pest control. Evidence found in China and the Middle East supports that.

Bradshaw also says that roughly 85% of cat breeding is female pets with male feral cats. That makes them retain a lot of wild instinct. When it comes to interacting with people, they rely on what their natural (read: wild) instincts tell them. We humans are mostly non-hostile creatures that both allow and return certain behaviors, such as rubbing or kneading. Therefore, we are just big cats.

Perhaps most interesting are Bradshaw's ideas about why cats bring us gifts of dead prey. We think of such things as offerings, however, Nicholas Wade, the author of the "New York Times" piece, says that Bradshaw says this isn't the case. Neither do they see us as young kittens who need a hunter to bring them food. Instead, our cats bring their prey in because they see our houses as safe places to eat.

It's hard to imagine that a cat that carries hair ties, small balls, or other small things in her teeth, and dropping it at your feet is doing anything other than bringing you a gift. While Bradshaw may indeed be correct that usually a cat is taking her prey somewhere safe, sometimes she might still be bringing a gift to you.

If you'd like to read "Cat Sense" for yourself, it's available on in both hardcover and Kindle editions.

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