Anyone with a cat knows this game:
You are sitting on the couch, watching TV or reading a book when all of a sudden you feel the steely gaze of your feline friend, eyeing you up and down. Perhaps they are curious about what you are doing. Maybe they want to play. Could be they are enamored with you, the bringer of food and giver of scritches.
Or, as a new study would posit, they might be plotting your demise.
That’s right. Our furry feline friends are actually very psychologically similar to their larger cousins, lions. And we all know how a lion looks at the world.
What that means is our little house cats are not as subservient as previously thought. Instead, they show high levels of dominance, impulsiveness, and (not surprisingly) neuroticism. So, while they may look like adorable little poofballs, on the inside they are basically a pint-sized Caligula.
So why aren’t they constantly trying to claw our eyes out? Well, they may be tiny tyrants, but they are not dummies. Cats have lived alongside people for thousands of years because they understand that they eat better and live longer when under our care. Also, we literally tower over them and they know better than to mess with giants.
But our cats being more akin to lions than previously thought does not just mean they harbor resentful thoughts towards us. Like lions, our cats also have a tendency to be excitable, curious, and playful.
More than anything else, this study highlights the complex order of operations going on inside our cats’ little heads. They act based on a flurry of sophisticated emotions and rationale. Years ago, we thought all cat behavior stemmed from simple things like “want food,” or “what’s that noise?” Instead, cats can exhibit signs of jealousy, frustration, embarrassment, excitement, and joy.
One thing that this study proved that we already knew – feline emotions can change on a dime. One second they are all love and kisses and the next your hand is trapped in a four-pronged death-grip.
Most importantly, this study shows that, just like people, no two cats are alike. They may exhibit similar behaviors, but their motivations and reactions are likely unique only to themselves.
While we now know that, despite thousands of years of domestication, we will never be able to remove that killer instinct from our cats, we can still take solace in knowing that it was there from the beginning and hasn’t resulted in a furry feline uprising yet.