When it comes to the psychology of the domestic cat, the discussion is never ending, simply because the cat refuses to be neatly categorized. The cat’s mind basically remains a mystery to us humans, due in part to its isolated, independent bent. That doesn’t stop us from trying to nail down some basic truths about the psyche of the cat, however.
- First, from the very beginning of the species, cats have been loners.
- Second, cats have never been forced by humans to take on behaviors that are contrary to their basic instincts; we’ve never asked a cat to herd a mouse. All we have asked domestic cats to do is kill vermin, an altogether natural behavior. Because of this, the cat’s natural psychology remains largely untouched. By not being forced into unusual behaviors or social situations, the cat stayed, well, a cat.
A memory like an elephant
The cat is extremely adaptable, always a plus for a predator. It also has a wonderful memory, characteristics that can help or hurt the cat owner relationship. If for example, you show a cat kindness upon first meeting it will generally think well of you in future meetings. However, if you accidentally step on a cat’s tail it will carry that memory for a long time. Though repairable, the trust of this unfortunate cat will take a while to regain.
- In general, never force your cat to do anything it does not want to do, as this will almost certainly upset it and cause it to distrust you.
What can cats learn?
The cat’s mind is not as predictable as that of the dog. It may choose to sleep in one spot of your house for a year, then, abruptly change its favorite spot, with no rhyme or reason. It may prefer certain brand of food for years, then, suddenly refuse to eat it, with no explanation. It is consistent with its love for immediate family, however, and with basic behaviors such as litter box use and predatory yearnings.
Remember, a cat will only do something if it decides there is some advantage in doing so. In other words, the cat won’t learn anything it doesn’t want to learn. That means there has to be some advantage to adopting a new behavior, in the mind of your cat. Sit just because you asked your cat to? No chance. How about a fish? We’ll see.