Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Is Domestication bad for a cat?

The answer is a qualified "no". Life for a domestic cat is easier. Domestic cats live an average of 10-12 years or more and about 3 years or so when feral. Although this is probably a distorted statistic as feral cats are in, my opinion, living in an unnatural way. They are living in suburban areas still relying to a certain extent on humans.

But everything that is more comfortable for us is not necessarily good for us. An animal (and I include human animals) need challenge, some stress, a target, a motivation etc to live in balance.

When it's too easy (think of rich kids) things can go wrong - drugs, drink, bad behavior due in part to boredom and lack of direction.

The same is surely true of cats or indeed any animal that has an unnaturally restricted or limited life. In domesticating herself the cat has sought and found an easier life, this was done instinctively some 9,500 years ago. But she also lost some essential challenges in her life.

Our instincts don't always lead us down the right path. We have an instinct to make life easier like all animals but this must be controlled like all human instincts.

What I'm getting at is this. A domesticated cat's life can be easy to the point of boredom, dullness and lack of focus that can result in disorders such as compulsive repetitive disorder.

The symptoms are for example, skin rippling, compulsive grooming, compulsive meowing, excessive chewing and chasing around unnaturally.

Some of the symptoms may be due to a specific illness but there may be an underlying issue with boredom and lack of focus which we as carers can give back at least to a certain degree.

We should force ourselves to play with out cat at least twice daily, I think, for about 20 mins or so each time. This is difficult and becoming increasingly so due the competitive nature of the modern world and the demands that it places upon us.

It seems that the problems that we as humans face are reflected in our cats behavior. We are more occupied and therefore less able to give our cats the time they need from.

When I read articles about how to resolve a cats poor or unnatural behavior, I think it is us who should be addressing our behavior as this is often the source of the problem or at least the answer can be found there.

Photograph reproduced under creative commons copyright brainwise Flickr (top) and jpmatth (bottom)

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