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  • Does Your Cat Really Want to Kill You?

    by Alyssa Wethington

    People have said a lot of terrible things about cats over the years. They’re bad luck. They’re cold and aloof. The reverberations of their steps can topple a bridge (a personal favorite). It seems every few months, a new viral article claims some abhorrent thing about Ms. Whiskers. Most noteworthy that she doesn’t really love you, and that she may actually want to kill you.

    These kinds of accusations add fuel to the fire of dog versus cat animosity. People find it necessary to defend their chosen pet by claiming the other is inadequate. We want to live in a world where dog and cat lovers are one in the same, united under a universal appreciation for the animals we share our lives with. But more importantly…is there any merit to the claim that your cat wants to kill you?

    The confusion all started with a study that appeared in a 2014 edition of the Journal of Comparative Psychology. Researchers conducting the study analyzed the personalities of domestic cats as well as several species of wild cats, including snow leopards and African lions. The study found that domestic cats share many “personality traits” with their wild counterparts, some of which included neuroticism and dominance, among other unsavory personas. The conclusions of the study were then wildly extrapolated to assume that domestic cats, personality-wise, are just tiny lions and if they could, they’d totally kill you.

    There are a few problems with this hashtag-able proclamation. Measuring personality traits in animals is pretty much the opposite of an exact science — especially animals whose social structures are complex and variable. While we love and often personify our pets, personality profiles are for human interaction, not necessarily those between cats or humans and cats.

    The actual results of the study were dramatically distorted. Some articles “reporting” the research featured commentary by a psychologist who wasn’t involved in the study. Meanwhile, the actual researchers remind us that personality traits are not the same as individual traits, and thus noticing similarities in lions and cats is not indicative of inevitable behavior. Mostly, it just reinforces what we already know: house cats evolved from a common ancestor with big cats and are still little predators at heart.

    So what does all this mean? Besides the obvious conclusion that scientific reporting is not always accurate, it means you have no reason to worry that your cat or your perspective cat will want to kill you. Though science still tells us fairly little about feline behavior, actual signs point to your cat seeing you not as oversized prey but as a bigger, dumber cat. Your cat also likely gives you “kitty kisses” with her eyes and shows her affection in other body language codes. So celebrate your cat’s oddness instead of fearing it. Pet love is universal, neurotic or not.

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