Most of the lesser complex animals, invertebrates, fish, amphibians, and reptiles probably have a worldview along the lines of ‘it just is’ and accept whatever comes along – go with the flow. But once you consider the relatively higher and more complex animals, like birds and mammals, then brain complexity becomes such that to a greater or lesser degree, intelligence and the ability to think and figure things out has to be taken into consideration.
For those of you who have companion animals, or even those of you who have just watched animals at a distance, you may have wondered how those animals view and perhaps even think about life, the universe and everything. That is, each animal must have some sort of personal worldview; a perspective or point of view probably forever beyond our understanding – usually but not always.
I’m picking on cats in this particular case because I’ve owned cats nearly all my life. This essay could just as easily have been dogs or horses or some other domesticated mammal.
So what are cats? Can we identify with them? Can they identify with us? Well, domesticated cats are playful; curious; adaptable; selfish; they dream; they like variety though they can also be creatures of habit; they can ‘think’ things through and make decisions; they have a vocal language and a body language; they display emotions; they have memory and therefore somewhat a sense of history; they have the same sensory apparatus as we have; they have their own likes and dislikes whether it be food; a place to sleep, where they want or don’t want to be scratched or rubbed or petted; and, in short each cat has their own very unique personality. Cats are certainly very self-centred, perhaps a bit more so than typical adult humans, but certainly akin to human infants and toddlers whose worldview is very self-centred with a near 24/7 gimmie, gimmie, gimmie; I want, I want, I want. Cats, at least those intersecting with humans have a gimmie/I want aspect to them, and like infants/toddlers the ‘pester’ factor can often reach extremes. In short, cats really seem to be mini albeit furry versions of humans, especially infants/toddlers. But, how close might that version really be?
For starters, and perhaps like all animals, the cat probably has a worldview something akin to it being the centre of things – the be-all-and-end-all – and that the entire environment the cat finds itself in is there to provide for all the cat’s requirements. From the domestic cat’s point of view, the world owes it a living! How else could the cat view things? One’s self perceptions tend to revolve around ‘I am the centre of the universe’ because you are most intimately bound up in your worldview with yourself and not as intimately with anything else. Therefore, anything else, in a self-centred worldview must be subservient. Of course the cat often finds out the hard way that parts of that external reality have differing opinions. That never seems to shift the cat’s worldview however that it is ‘top dog’* and deserves all the best that comes its way – which might not be all the ‘best’ that nature could provide but the cat doesn’t know that.
Cats certainly have no comprehension, perhaps like toddlers, of being in the way, underfoot, in danger of being trodden on or sat upon, while helping themselves to whatever maine coon kittens for sale piece of household geography suits their fancy. One could conclude from their selfish (from our point of view) behaviour, their worldview must be one of ‘supreme being’ and ‘rank has its privileges’, and such a worldview will persist at least until such time as their tail gets stepped on or they get tossed out of the easy chair! They still probably see themselves as supreme beings – it’s their worldview of you that’s now somewhat changed.
The average head of the household and cat owner is probably somewhat of the opinion or has the rationale that ‘I pay the bills, therefore I call the shots and what I say goes’! Cats can probably understand ‘head of the household’ in that in cat society, as in all animal societies, all cats are not equal – there is a hierarchy and one cat alone will be ‘top dog’ as it were. But there’s nothing in a cat’s worldview that corresponds to money or bills or economics or finance. Everything is a free lunch, be it sunshine or the electric/gas/wood heater you, the owner, pay for. Even if the cat goes outside and catches and eats a mouse, it’s still as free a lunch as far as the cat is concerned as the food you put in its food bowl. So that bit about ‘I’m the boss because I pay the bills’ has no meaning or significance to the cat since the concept of ‘bills’ is foreign.
Cats have no mythology about shopping. The post Xmas sales and weekly specials at the supermarket are alien concepts. So is that nearly supreme abstraction to humans – time. Birthdays are a non-event with no realization when they occur and with no relevance in any event. Ditto all those other special points in time like holidays we humans are obsessed with. Cats don’t make a habit of staying up late on New Years Eve. It’s of no consequence. Weekends are no different than weekdays.