slammerkinbabe: (!carol (bitch please))
[personal profile] slammerkinbabe
So there was a study done on cats recently, a study that seems to have thought it was about whether cats care about their humans. What the people running the study actually did to determine this was that they put cats in an unfamiliar environment with their owner, with a stranger, and alone, and then monitored how they behaved in this situation. Their theory was that if cats cared about their people, they would go to them for comfort. If they didn’t go to them for comfort, it must mean cats don’t care about their people.

First of all, this is some serious anthropomorphizing shit that they are pulling right here. They are assuming that when a cat is stressed out, instead of going into hyperalert mode to assess the situation (as our Basil cat does) or just hiding from everything entirely (as our Ari does), they are going to run to their human companion like a kid hiding behind its mother’s leg. Apparently dogs do that, and, I mean, good for dogs. But the fact that a cat doesn’t turn to its human in that situation doesn’t mean that cats never care about humans. Other, better studies have shown that cats pretty much perceive their humans as being basically the same as themselves -- they think we're big giant clumsy bald cats, basically. You wouldn’t study whether cats cared about each other by putting them in a stressful situation and then watching to see if they cuddled close together. You would just observe them in their daily lives, wouldn’t you? See if they spent time together, see if they groomed each other, see if they played together, see if they enjoyed each other’s company? How did this study get from “cats don’t turn to humans for comfort in this one specific stressful situation” to “cats don’t care about people”?

And then the news reporting! The study is stupid enough, but the reporting! Sorry, but your cat really doesn’t need you, says the Huffington Post. Really? Because right now I’m the reason they have food and water. Research suggests cats don’t miss you when you’re gone, says the San Diego Tribune and half of the other articles on the subject, and just -- really? How in the world did they get to that conclusion? No one studied the cats being left alone for an extended period of time in their normal habitat! That is not even close to being what this study was about! And my personal favorite, from the Hindustan Times (for some reason several Indian newspapers picked this up, all with similar headlines), and bewilderingly classed under “Sex and Relationships”: Mean kitty, bad kitty: Your cat doesn’t mind your absence. Yes. Yes, that is exactly what we have determined. All cats are mean and all cats are bad. Because they become alert and wary in strange situations, instead of seeking comfort from humans. They are bad. Bad, bad creatures. Go kick that cat you’ve got right out on the curb and get yourself to the shelter to pick up a nice dog. Don’t worry. The cat won’t care.

*sigh* Cats are cats, guys. They are naturally independent. They are also capable of forming emotional bonds with their people, and liking to be around their people, and missing their people when they’re gone. We had to hospitalize Ari once and you should have seen her when we came to visit her for the first time. Even before she could see us, the second she heard our voices, she bolted upright in the cage and started jumping up and down, trying to see us. When we got to see her she ran all around the cage (with an IV in her foot, no less, which was knocking everything all over the place) and then kept shoving her head in our hands over and over, begging for pets. She kept doing that for maybe 15 minutes, and then she got up and ate for the first time in weeks -- that was why she’d been hospitalized, because she had some illness, probably pancreatitis, that was keeping her from eating. The illness had settled down when she was in the hospital, but she still wouldn’t eat until we got there. She was as excited to see us as any puppy could be. But most of the time, in less extreme circumstances, she doesn’t jump up and down and thrust her head into your hands like a puppy would. She expresses her love and affection like a cat -- by following us from room to room, walking with her tail straight up and a little crook in the tip, by crawling on us, by exposing her belly, by blinking slowly. Basil is less affectionate but uses the same signals. And when we go to the vet Basil explores things with his tail down and Ariadne hides wherever she can, and we do not take that as a sign that they don’t love us. We take it as a sign that they are cats.

It is unsurprising that this particular study was originally designed, not for assessing the emotions of cats, but for assessing the emotions of humans. It was supposed to gauge how kids behaved in a weird situation, whether they'd cling to their parents or not, and was supposed to be an index of parental attachment.* The idea that you can just grab a study model like that and impose it on species it was not designed for is kind of ludicrous. The fact that there are like 300 articles about it today is more ridiculous still. And people will continue to think that animals should behave just like people, and they will continue to miss their cats' affection signals, but there probably won't be that many of those anyway if they keep treating cats like people instead of like cats.

Anyway. Tl;dr, there is bad reporting about cats in the world, and I am salty about it.

_____________________________

*Which seems like bad study design even for humans? What about kids who respond to unfamiliar situations by exploring them instead of running to their parents for comfort? What does the study say about them? What about parents who are *deliberately raising* their kids to respond to unfamiliar situations that way? Do they love their kids less, do those kids love their parents less? WAAAAAAAT1

1Except apparently that is not even what the study is supposed to measure, and kids who are close to their parents are supposed to explore a strange situation confidently when a parent is around, show distress when they leave and run to them when they come back. This makes more sense, but this is not what three of the articles about the cat study that I read said. They clearly stated that cats were not seeking comfort from their humans when their humans were in the room. Did they take the same study model that they used for studying humans but change up the expectations for cats? Because if so they did a terrible job and basically I don't understand anything about this study except that it sucked.

Date: 2015-09-08 05:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rolypolypony.livejournal.com
Well said. People seem determined to make cats seem like bastards, maybe so they feel less bad about leaving them home alone w/ a big bowl of food and water for a 3 day weekend.

I keep seeing these things and wanting to send them a video of how Lydia greets me at the door every day when I get home, and then rides around on my shoulder for the next 15 mins. Nah, she doesn't care about me.

Date: 2015-09-09 01:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lietya.livejournal.com
"People seem determined to make cats seem like bastards, maybe so they feel less bad about leaving them home alone w/ a big bowl of food and water for a 3 day weekend."

Sadly, I think this is very true. Also, cats who live with people who are indifferently affectionate and don't pay much attention are probably going to end up with attachment disorders, so they don't look very fond of their people either. :(

Date: 2015-09-09 11:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rolypolypony.livejournal.com
:(

I hate people.

Date: 2015-09-09 05:44 pm (UTC)
conuly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] conuly
Sadly, I think this is very true. Also, cats who live with people who are indifferently affectionate and don't pay much attention are probably going to end up with attachment disorders, so they don't look very fond of their people either. :(

These are the same people who, when told that goldfish will live for decades with proper care, go "Really? That can't be true. All mine died after a couple of months!"

And then you sit there and try to find a non-sarcastic way to state that, in that case, the care wasn't proper.

Date: 2015-09-09 08:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lietya.livejournal.com
Unfortunately, that's a great analogy. If you do manage to find the non-sarcastic way, I admire you, because I've learned there are simply some conversations I should not have or I'll say something I regret. (Like asking my mother-in-law if she'd chop off her grandson's fingertips for drawing on the wall, and if not, would she please stop pressuring us to declaw. [her three cats were *four-paw* declawed, a barbarism I didn't even think was possible anymore.])

Date: 2015-09-10 12:57 pm (UTC)
conuly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] conuly
Why would you declaw the BACK paws? Poor kitties!

I once visited a friend-of-a-friend, and when I told my niece to stop chasing her cat around foaf said "Oh, that's all right, the cat's declawed!"

It was all I could do not to scream at her. First you mutilate the poor animal, then you allow your child and mine and their mutual friend to torment it?

Date: 2015-09-10 03:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lietya.livejournal.com
I am once again impressed by your restraint, because that was exactly my reaction. The problem here isn't risk of injury to the *child,* it's that the CAT is being tormented (and has been robbed of its best way of communicating a less severe warning, no less).

I have a 2" scar on my wrist where a panicky kitten suspended her entire 3-lb body weight while falling, and another where a very slight cat scratch got infected. Neither is exactly fun, but it still doesn't make me regret not mutilating them.

As for the back paw declaw, I am shocked she found someone to do it, and it was apparently because rowdy kittens were scratching up the drapes with all four paws as they climbed. (Personally, I just got new drapes. WTF.)

Date: 2015-09-11 12:15 am (UTC)
conuly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] conuly
Ugh. Kittens grow out of climbing up drapes about the same time they grow out of climbing up legs. Grown cats certainly don't do it, nor do adolescent kitties. Just tie the damn drapes up and wait it out, it won't be more than a month, tops.

Date: 2015-09-11 12:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lietya.livejournal.com
I know!! And I say this as someone who has spent years engaged in what I'm calling "the arms race with someone who has no arms" against a cat who is determined to ruin things. :) At one point in the effort to thwart the cutie in my icon from tipping over their water bowls, I found myself staring in disbelief as a 5-lb 6-month-old cat dragged a plastic box containing two giant bowls *and four bricks* across the floor by her TEETH. My box spring is covered by a heavy-duty outdoor tarp. Etc. But this is the price of having cats, and it's well worth it. Besides, I get some amusing stories...

Date: 2015-09-11 12:44 pm (UTC)
conuly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] conuly
LOL. Last batch of kittens (mother came to us pregnant, we got mom and kittens all fixed before giving away nearly all of the babies), one of them insisted on dragging any stray bit of laundry he could find into the litterbox with him if he needed to use it.

No, I don't know why he did that.

But lugging bricks around, that's one I've never heard!

Date: 2015-09-09 12:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charliesmum.livejournal.com
My cats love me.

I know this because they were really mad at us when we came back from the UK. :)

Date: 2015-09-09 02:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slammerkinbabe.livejournal.com
LOL That's nice! Sort of! How did they express being mad at you?

Date: 2015-09-09 02:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charliesmum.livejournal.com
We came in the house, and they were in the living room, so we were all 'hi kitties! We're home! We missed you!' and they just stared at us disdainfully and walked away when we tried to pet them. Clearly they were saying 'you're gonna abandon us for two weeks? Well you can pet yourself, then. bah.'

They cuddled us a little bit later. on their OWN terms. :)

a good shop

Date: 2015-09-09 04:13 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
magicinflatables waterball
A ball to let you walk on walk on water. Let us see how it happens!
And it also can be as a show ball!
magicinflatables,a guide for you to enter the magic inflatables world!
welcome to my web site:http://www.2winworld.com/

Date: 2015-09-09 01:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lietya.livejournal.com
Yeah, no shit. SO many of these studies boil down to "cats are inferior dogs," which, sure. I'm an inferior specimen for a woolly mammoth, too. :) I sometimes wonder if anyone else notices this and is annoyed by it, so thanks for that! This is an excellent deconstruction.

I have sometimes noted that Ophelia loves us in a way that is closest to the ways that humans express affection - she does greet us at the door when we get home, she makes sure we're emotionally and physically OK, she tries to soothe and bathe and cuddle us - but that's an example of a cat making an exceptional effort to transcend the species barrier and meet us partway. (And even then, she's quite capable of going Full Cat and doing something inscrutable yet irritating.) That doesn't mean she cares about us *more,* though. It means she makes more of an effort to patronize to the big bald weird cats who are clearly stunted in communication.

(Amber, on the other hand, greets us in a frenzy if she's been left alone more than a couple hours, to the point of shrieking and *fluffing her tail* with emotion. It's very silly, but even then does not approach the demonstrativeness of some dogs. So what?)

Cats have evolved to be wary of showing too much reaction and to act standoffish and alert in alarming situations. It doesn't make them un-affectionate any more than dogs being more inclined to look to humans for help means they suck at problem-solving; it's all in the framing. Oh, and it turns out wild and feral cats *do* coexist and get lonely without their colonies, they just need a lot more personal space than dogs (surprise) so it looks like they're "not living together" to humans who expect a different model of closeness.

Date: 2015-09-09 02:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slammerkinbabe.livejournal.com
LOL The Worst Cat Ever is indeed very in keeping with this! I will never get over my shame about the fact that the first time I saw that site it went right over my head and I thought it was literally a weird hairless cat. (In my own defense hairless cats really are very weird-looking sometimes) (except that really, really is not much of a defense)

Date: 2015-09-09 02:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lietya.livejournal.com
Oh, hairless cats really are weird! I was confused at first too; Shash can attest that I blinked a few times and said hesitantly "wait, is that a ... hippo? why do they think it's a cat?" :)

But it seems hilariously apropos here, for truly, hippos make terrible cats.

Date: 2015-09-09 11:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rolypolypony.livejournal.com
It means she makes more of an effort to patronize to the big bald weird cats who are clearly stunted in communication.

YES. Well put! :)

Date: 2015-09-09 02:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lietya.livejournal.com
:)

I know it's also anthropormorphizing, but she seriously does do the "perhaps if I say it slower and louder" thing to us!

Date: 2015-09-09 03:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rolypolypony.livejournal.com
Hahhahah!! I love that! I know that Lydia totally does the same thing to us, especially when trying to tell us she wants treats! "Ok, if I do this really LOUDLY, maybe these fools will finally understand??"

Date: 2015-09-09 08:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lietya.livejournal.com
I'm glad we're not the only stupid bald cats! ;) Poor Lydia; don't tell her Feelie's been trying for 13 years and still can't get through.

Date: 2015-09-10 12:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rolypolypony.livejournal.com
Hehehhe! I'm not sure if she'd give up or double her efforts - the latter would be terrifying! ;)

Date: 2015-09-09 02:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slammerkinbabe.livejournal.com
Aww, Ophelia sounds like a sweet cat to have around. I fully understand that cats not demonstrating affection in the ways humans do doesn't mean that they don't care, but I still like it when cats *do* go out of their way to express affection in ways we understand intuitively, because, well, I understand those ways intuitively.

Also,

It doesn't make them un-affectionate any more than dogs being more inclined to look to humans for help means they suck at problem-solving; it's all in the framing.

YES. Species are different from one another! And you can't judge one by another's standards! How's that for a framing!

Date: 2015-09-09 02:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lietya.livejournal.com
She really is. Though at this precise moment she is hitting me with her giant paw because she wants my coffee, so, yeah. Still a cat. :) Heck, the jokes about them training US are also true - she figured out that yawning sometimes makes us do what she wants because the cat breath is so awful, and now she yawns *at* us. Like right now...

Let's not forget that if cats were able to compose long essays about and/or perform studies on us, the results would not be flattering. "The species has a disgusting pile of fur attached at the head parts but is otherwise embarrassingly bald; speaks only pidgin cat; with great effort can be convinced to produce kibble; has weather powers but refuses to use them; seems affectionate in an indiscriminate way but largely expresses this by clumsy paw-maulings."

Date: 2015-09-09 02:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
Here via andrewducker...

My recollection is that the "secure attachment" (that is "good") behaviour for human toddlers (and CATS ARE NOT HUMAN TODDLERS) is investigating the room and/or strangers confidently whilst the parent is there, showing some worry/distress when the parent leaves and happiness when the parent returns (which I guess includes "running to them for a hug") not "clinging to parent for the whole time".

Anyway CATS ARE NOT HUMAN TODDLERS and are obviously going to behave differently.

Date: 2015-09-09 02:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slammerkinbabe.livejournal.com
Thank you! That makes much more sense, and I added a footnote. I still don't understand what in the world they were trying to study with cats, because a couple of the articles did note that the cats ignored their people when they were in the room and didn't seek comfort from them, which apparently is not even the model for healthily-attached behavior in humans. But at least I understand what they're doing with people now.

Date: 2015-09-11 12:47 pm (UTC)
conuly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] conuly
You know, I recollect another "study" in this vein which reported that your pet cats don't really love you, because although brain scans indicate that they recognize your voice, they don't respond physically when they hear it.

For the 20-odd years prior to that, I've long considered it a sign of trust if a cat doesn't jerk into an alert posture when hearing my voice! Simple observation has long suggested to me that for cats, a sign of affection and trust is that they figure they can ignore you as an obvious non-danger.

a good shop

Date: 2015-09-09 04:08 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
magicinflatables waterball

A ball to let you walk on walk on water. Let us see how it happens!

And it also can be as a show ball!

magicinflatables,a guide for you to enter the magic inflatables world!

welcome to my web site:http://www.2winworld.com/

Date: 2015-09-09 05:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] girlofprey.livejournal.com
That is stupid, especially when - don't they think cats bring dead animals to the door to try to feed their owners because they think we're really terrible hunters and can't manage on our own? Maybe a cat in an unfamiliar situation is going to look to protect their owner, rather than the other way around.

Date: 2015-09-09 05:49 pm (UTC)
conuly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] conuly
Some people think that. Others observe that this behavior is also observed in toms, who don't generally take this role with kittens. Sooooo... in the end, we don't quite know why cats do that. It's probably well-intentioned, anyway.

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