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Jan 13, 2014 03:03 PM EST

John Bradshaw's 'Cat Sense' Says Humans Are Big Cats In The Eyes Of Their Pets, But Is The Book Just Feline Propaganda?


The cat and human relationship is complex and interesting, so much so that a new book attempts to interpret some of its most ambiguous qualities. Based on its summary by Red Orbit and review in the New York Times, "Cat Sense" by Dr. John Bradshaw re-interprets common conceptions of the human-cat relationship in unique ways (and probably friendlier ways than previous theories), even if some of his explanations seem to be as speculative as prior research.

Just the other day, a cat was sitting on my lap and my brother, wishing to perhaps enlighten me and strike me (and cats) down to size at the same time, informed me that the animal considered my legs its personal property and that I shouldn't draw any undue affection from the pet's gesture. I hadn't heard that theory before, but wasn't all that surprised either. The point of this anecdote is to show that humans are aware of the unusual, and perhaps brutally professional (for lack of a better term), social dynamic between cats and humans. Besides expounding on this relationship, the purpose of Bradshaw's book is to perhaps lighten some of its darker aspects, and, as the subtitle reads, "to make you a better friend to your pet."

A British anthrozoologist (one who studies human-animal relationships) at the university of Bristol, Bradshaw notes that according to previous theories, cats view humans as their babies, partially supported by cats leaving dead birds and such on their owners' doorsteps to "feed" us. Bradshaw dispels both of those notions. He believes cats view humans as their "mama kittens" or simply a larger, non-threatening cat, even if they simultaneously see us as intellectually inferior (based on the fact that we can't move as gracefully, which is a seemingly counterintuitive way to view intelligence). Leaving food on our doorstep is done because it's a safe place to eat. Then (and this is where one of Bradshaw's theories begins to falter a little), the cat remembers the even tastier food provided by its human "mama," and forgets about the less than savory animal. In this way, the cat acknowledges humans as a food provider.

At face value (without having read the book and the scientific support Bradshaw supposedly provides), the explanation is less plausible than the "humans as baby kittens" theory and perhaps a convenient narrative to show cats in a more positive light.

At the least, Bradshaw's book is an entertaining read for a country inexplicably drawn to cats simply because they don't feel the same way towards us (and we really don't know how they feel).

"I found the book's sections on the evolution and archaeology of cats a little long-winded, and the writing in general is clear but stodgy in places," wrote the Times. "That aside, "Cat Sense" will teach you much about the biology of cats that you never suspected."

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