It used to be that when it came to pets, people thought only dogs strongly attached to their families. They assumed that cats were loners and too aloof to care about their humans’ coming and goings. That may not be the case, especially in the last few decades. And I’m actually an illustration of why!
Back in the olden days — meaning more than 100 years ago, so yes, literally the olden days — cats were primary part time human companions. They mainly lived outdoors, perhaps in barns, and came and went as they pleased. Sure, some of them became attached to family members, but it wasn’t that common, and it wasn’t that tight of a bond.
But more recently, say, in the past 40 or so years, people have increasingly wanted more from their cat-human relationships. They wanted a deeper, more loving companionship. And not surprisingly, cats have stepped up to the challenge.
Why not surprisingly? Because there is a hyper social gene mutation found in some humans and dogs, and research is growing that indicates cats may also have this in their DNA. And those cats who do are the ones more likely to have survived and thrived in a human created environment.
And how am I an illustration of this? My breeder has been careful to develop highly social tendencies in her lines of Somalis. Part of it is nurture, of course, but a good part of my temperament, and those of my relatives, comes from my ancestors too. My human has met some of my half-brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews — and we know a few of them online too! And they are all exceptionally sweet and funny kitties. Even moreso than the usual happy, goofball Somali temperament.
But just because I’m a pedigreed cat, don’t think that this isn’t happening with your everyday rescue cats too. I mean, which cats and kittens are the ones who wind up with families? The more social ones! And shelters are working to make sure their kitties are even more socialized than ever before (case in point: the Cat Pawsitive initiative). It’s the friendlier pregnant moms who are often taken off the street for a better life for their kittens and themselves.
Pretty cool, right? But there’s a downside. The old cliches and beliefs about cats being antisocial and kind of mean aren’t going away as quickly as cat socialization is increasing. Most people don’t yet realize that cats need companionship almost as much as dogs do! (The dog hyper socialization has been bred into overdrive, so yes, they are much needier.) Cats can get separation anxiety, and they can act out if they do not get the love and attention they crave.
What’s the moral here? Humans want more love and companionship from their cats — but it’s a two-way street. You need to give it to them too, and in a way that felines understand in their own cat language. Give your cat quiet time and playtime together. Do it on a schedule. And don’t abandon your cat all day without making sure they have lots of enrichment at home, to keep them occupied and happy. It’s like any relationship — if you make an effort, you’ll reap lots of rewards.
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