Cats are communalI get a lot of disbelief when I share that I have a Cat Civilization. Many people don’t believe multiple cats can live together in harmony.
My own experience taught me that cats, if not stressed by scarcity, prefer to live with a bunch of like-minded friends. Now, science is backing me up.
This. This right here.
[C]ats aren’t naturally solitary. We just assumed they were based on observations of European wildcats – but housecats aren’t descended from European wildcats. They’re descended from African wildcats, which are known to hunt in bonded pairs and family groupings, and that social tendency is even stronger in their domesticated relatives. The natural social unit of the housecat is a colony: a loose affiliation of cats centred around a shared territory held by alliance of dominant females, who raise all of the colony’s kittens communally.
It’s often remarked that dogs understand that humans are different, while cats just think humans are big, clumsy cats, and that’s totally true – but they regard us as adult colonymates, not as kittens, and all of their social behaviour toward us makes a lot more sense through that lens.
See? We are not “crazy” to have multiple cats. In fact, more-than-one-cat is a cat’s natural state. Understanding that cats are not solitary creatures turns out to explain so much about them.
It is also the key to happy care, training, and affection. Cats communicate with us about their needs, swap favors for us so they know how to behave, and have the ability to feel friendship bonds because that is how their cat society works.
When we know that, cats are not so mysterious after all.
Law of Reciprocation
In psychology, reciprocity is the fuel society runs on. I always treat my cats like fellow adult colonymates. It works great.
Societal cooperation means: I do you a favor, and you do me a favor. This is also the Way of Cats training method. We now know why cats find this procedure so understandable, and how they are compelled to be cooperative with us when they see we take care of them. While they are not pack animals, they are social animals.
Despite the persistent myth of cats being solitary and aloof, Cat Appreciators know that our cats are very connected and loving. The reason this myth continues to be believed by so many, is that it continues to be true: for people who do not know how to let the cat see them as a friend. When a Cat Skeptic sends all the wrong signals to a cat, the cat sensibly withdraws; just as we would from a person who is being rude and inappropriate to us.
This also explains how I see Cat Civilization (three or more cats) as something that not only gives us more cat enjoyment, it also keeps our cats’ social gears tuned up and running correctly. By practicing society with each other, they are even better at doing so with humans.
Of course, a single cat can happily be part of a social construct, too, whether that is one other person or a family that includes humans, dogs, birds, and the like. I encourage multiple cats because so often people fix cat problems by offering such targeted cat socialization. Cats who want cat companionship are expressing a need for play, discussion, and friendship that only fellow cats can provide. This is why, if we have an older or sedate cat, getting two kittens is actually more sensible than getting one.
And now we have a Cat Civilization.
As I explain in Cat Math, we actually lighten our human workload when we get other cats to help out. They wear each other out more efficiently than we can, they increase everyone’s communication with humans by acting as translators and message bringers for each other, and they provide companionship while we are away from home.
Restrictions of Domestication
For centuries, people essentially lived next door to these same wild cat colonies. “The barn” (or equivalent agricultural facility) was full of cats who caught mice, got the occasional handout, and were given shelter from the elements. All while they continued their ancestral pattern of communal cat cooperation.
More modern humans want even more from their cat relationship. For best results, we recreate a cat colony in our home. This creates more engineering of our homes, now that we share them. We need more exercise and amusement for our indoor only cats.
We also need to spay or neuter our cats. This keeps down the cat population (too many cats already don’t have homes) and also keeps our cats from displaying difficult sex characteristics like marking territory, fighting (for males) and sneaking out to come back pregnant (for females.) Cats with their sex hormones shaping their behavior are also social; except indoors, where they rarely have enough territory to meet the needs of their instincts. This can lead to conflicts that do not occur in cats who have been “fixed.”
However, one of the interesting things about cats is that science finds very little has changed due to their association with humans, unlike most domesticated animals. Just as we did not want to change anything about our cat’s hunting abilities, which worked so well for us in our own civilization, so we have not changed anything about our cat’s social abilities. They are also working for us.
We use the vital social tool of communication to work with our cats for a mutually satisfying relationship. Care, training, affection; none of it would work if our cats were as anti-social as their aloof reputation says they are. One thing I find particularly ridiculous is the favorite way that Cat Skeptics manage the cognitive dissonance between the popularity of pet cats and the fact that, from their point of view, there isn’t any reason for it. Their chosen method is to claim that Cat Appreciators are all delusional and making up the entire thing because of their “neuroticism.”
And some of these people call themselves scientists.
I came to cats with an open mind and used my own observations, and those of my fellow cat rescuers, to craft my approach to cats. I was all about what worked, and what kept working, and the more I came up with good strategies, the more these strategies tended to contradict the many myths I kept hearing about cats. It turns out, when science is properly done, the Cat Appreciators are the ones who are correct.
We enjoy cats best when we enjoy cats most.
I explain more about Cat Civilization.
Got here from a Link or Search?
There’s more about multiple cats in The Way of Cats than the article you are reading now. See more posts on the MULTIPLE CAT ADVANTAGE.
Posted on January 27, 2017