Fascinating stuff! Gotta love Dr. Robert Sapolsky and the information he brings to the public’s attention.
Had to re-watch this video a second time today. I’ve been saying for a while now that somehow, some way, cats are involved in influencing human evolution. Swear to God. LOL The reason being that I spend a lot of time with animals and have long wondered what is the draw so many of us have toward cats in particular, especially considering how few of them fulfill any useful job (as in the way dogs historically did and some still do) AND at the same time cats are prone toward behaving like assholes toward us. Haha We know it’s true. How many times have we asked ourselves if we “cat people” are just masochistic underneath it all? Because dealing with enough cats over time truly does lead one to asking themselves this.
Think about how cats are natured and how many of them behave in a very entitled way as if that’s just intrinsic to their being. That tells me they’ve been getting away with a lot in their dealings with humans for a very long time to where expectations have been sown into the arrangement. And those expectations are oftentimes one-sided where we provide for their needs while they snobbishly critique our efforts. haha That may sound hilarious, but look into how many books have been written on the subject. This is not simply a product of my own ponderings, and I’m also informed by a lifetime of experiences with countless cats, most especially since I’ve taken up working directly with people’s pets within the last decade.
None of this is to suggest I don’t like cats. Actually I like them quite a bit and have come to prefer their company over dogs’ more and more over time. Nearly always I have a cat living with me, as is the case now as well. From what I gather in observing these animals, both those felines kept indoors as pets and those living outside as ferals, they are remarkably finicky and prone to irritation. lol And lately I’ve gotten to thinking that they pity us, by-and-large, and yet they remain tied in due to depending on us to support them. Even strays who can hunt often seek out humans to provide food for them, and if a human regularly does so, it’s not uncommon that the stray will simply cease hunting for themselves. This is where they get a reputation for being notoriously lazy — this along with sleeping 18 hours a day. lol And what has allowed for them to have such lazy lifestyles that seem so deeply ingrained in them? Historical reliance on humans appears to be the answer. And yet why do humans put up with furry little critters whose aim is to have their every need and wish provided for them by us, without normally feeling much need to reciprocate except where we mutually benefit (as in letting us pet them, which reduces our stress levels while providing them comfort and pleasure)? That’s the mystery, and that’s why we wonder if we’re masochists. ha
Do they actually need us? They like to think they don’t, but they gravitate toward us and pull at our heartstrings to share our bounty with them. Let them move in and they begin calling the shots and often refuse training or observance of simple rules like staying off the countertops. Some believe cats are incapable of being trained, though the rare exceptions seem to contradict this or at least give us reason to pause and wonder about their true capacity.
And remember that video that went viral a few months back of a cat attacking a dog who ran over and bit the little boy of the cat’s household? Plenty of us were shocked, and some took it as proof that cats do indeed care about us. I consider it more of a territorial dispute myself. lol But there was also another video of a lady and her little boy where some sort of glass was broken and the boy began crying, so one of the cats came in and began menacing the mother. What was that about? Who knows? Maybe some cats really do feel protective over us. The majority, though, seem more prone toward responding to protect their own selves or to seek out our protection. Mine is a scaredy cat who high-tails it under the bed anytime she hears anything that spooks her. She’s never shown any protective behavior in that regard. But she has shown jealous and guarded behavior, as when my former partner would stop over for dinner and she’d bite or swipe at me if he was petting her and I moved too close to him. lol Even though I purchase all her food, fill her water bowls daily, scoop her litter, and pay rent for apartments that have provided us shelter since the day I brought her home from the humane society, she’s fully willing to forsake me when someone else comes along who’s more fun or interesting to be around. hahaha And I’d be willing to bet that’s not uncommon for a lot of cats.
Anyway, now we have a possible reason for why we’re linked with cats the way we are. Toxoplasma in their urine may attract us toward them. Ha! And this unique parasite has a way of overriding our senses so that we’ll behave in ways that aren’t truly in our own best interests. Go figure! I knew something like that was bound to be the culprit, especially for those who are obsessed with cats and let them rule their lives (yes, I know of a number of these types of people, both male and female). That’s really interesting when you take time to deeply think about it. We’re aware of human connections with cats since at least the ancient Egyptian era when cats were worshiped, and the joke goes that cats still expect to be worshiped ever since. Maybe, as this video suggests, this biological link has been present all along. In a sense, this has allowed cats themselves to behave parasitically toward humans since so many of us remain enamored with them regardless of what they do to us or our homes.
I’ll admit that I’m not as smitten with cats as some folks obviously are. I’m routinely shocked when I learn of people who tolerate their cats pissing on their beds to express dissatisfaction with something they’ve done or failed to do. The last cat who acted a fool relentlessly toward me had to find a new place to live, and he’s since been residing with my close guyfriend down the street who has far more patience for feline shenanigans. My current kitty is very demanding, albeit schizoid, when it comes to showing her affection, rapidly oscillating between persistently pressing to be petted and then biting once she’s had her fill. It’s annoying as hell, but she’s clean and doesn’t have accidents outside of the litter box, so we make it work. And I hope to continue making it work for her whole life, despite her waking me up repeatedly at night, demanding to be let under the covers, then kicking up a storm when she’s ready to be let out, only to repeat the cycle an hour or so later. ha She’s a pain in the rear, no question, but she’s better than most, and I do love her despite feeling like her whipping mule and knowing she’d trade me in in a heartbeat if she was offered a sweeter deal.
The biological world remains largely a mystery where we’ve uncovered just the tip of that iceberg, particularly when we get down to the micro level and all the chemicals involved. Life is utterly fascinating when we really dig in and examine its complexity. Dr. Sapolsky is right that uncovering information like this does tend to poke a hole in our idea of free will and personal autonomy when we learn how much can and does have an impact on us, whether we realize it or not. And humans have always been impacted to varying degrees by all sorts of plants and animals and elements that had a huge effect on how we’ve developed and evolved. Brings to mind Michael Pollan’s book Botany of Desire (also been made into a film) that focused just on 4 plants, one of which was marijuana and how human brains have developed to be especially receptive to the chemicals present in that plant. This raises the question of who or what actually domesticated whom, and the answers seem to run in both/all directions. Just amazing stuff to ponder and speculate on, all the way around.