No, My Cat Is Not A Psychopath (Or So Science Says)
Why do dogs stare soulfully into our eyes, but for cats, the relationship is a one-way street?
If you’ve ever been viciously attacked by your cat out of nowhere, only for it to look at you with an oddly blank stare, you may have wondered if your furry feline is, well... a psychopath.
But why? Why does your dog protect you and cover you in happy wet kisses, but your cat tortures small animals for fun and meows incessantly until you put fresh water in her bowl?
One answer comes courtesy of Mikel Maria Delgado, a postdoctoral researcher on cat behavior at the University of California at Davis. Delgado pointed out to The Atlantic that the human-dog relationship is based on thousands of years domestication. Dogs have been bred to be highly attuned to human gestures, and as a result, can more easily mimic our expressions.
“We like things that remind us of us,” Delgado told The Atlantic. “We like smiling. We like dogs doing what we tell them. We like that they attend to us very quickly. They make a lot of eye contact.”
Cats, on the other hand, haven’t been bred to have the same kind of facial muscles that would allow them to mimic human expressions; they use a twitching tail or pulled-back ears to communicate. Cats are also more territorial, so what’s often interpreted as indifference might actually be anxiety about an unfamiliar situation.
So when your cat looks at you indifferently after tripping you on the stairs, it’s not being a psychopath. It’s just being a… cat.
Hmm. I’m not sure I entirely buy that, considering my last attempt to watch Netflix ended when my cat leaped onto the back of the couch and started to gnaw carnivorously on the back of my neck.
Then again, the last time I was in bed sick with the flu, I had an incredibly lovable, furry foot warmer to keep me company... and it was consolingly purring. Maybe there’s hope yet.