This scientist just set us straight — our cats actually DON’T want to murder us
We’ve all seen the memes about how our cats are plotting to kills us, right? There’s even a book about it, guys. A legit book called How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You exists in the world. It’s mostly tongue in cheek, of course. But that “mostly” is something of a sticking point. Our cats don’t really and truly want to murder us? Do they? Seriously, we need to know. This seems like important information.
As it turns out, the answer is no. Fluffy is not gleefully planning your demise while she sits on the windowsill licking herself. We can see how the rumors started. Some cats, after all, are murders. Of mice and birds, but still. There’s a body count. (In all fairness, though, my dog does this, too. I have a sweet little lapdog named Bliss who killed four birds last year and ate them each whole. Every time it happens, I’m a little more emotionally scarred…in case you were wondering.)
Cats have also been the subject of a whole host of urban legends, like the one about how they can suck the breath out of baby.
But what really kicked the rumors into high gear was a study published last year in the Journal of Comparative Psychology called “Personality Structure in the Domestic Cat (Felis silvestris catus), Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia), and African Lion (Panthera leo): A Comparative Study.” Yeah, I know. That’s quite a mouthful. The scientific study described lions and house cats in the same exact terms, using the words “dominance, impulsivity and neuroticism.” (Don’t throw things at me, cat people. I’m quoting here.) Those three little words were all it took for the entire Internet to go meme crazy. Headlines about our cats wanting to murder us became a regular thing.
Now, Marieke Cassia Gartner, the lead researcher for the study, is setting things straight, because it turns out, our cats do not want to kill us. (At least generally. If you and your cat are in the middle of a hardcore disagreement, well…who’s to say? I’m KIDDING.) Cats do not want to kill people. Period. Gartner told the Huffington Post via email, “My research did not suggest this — in fact, it’s completely unrelated. I don’t know why people would say that.”
So what’s the story with those three (scary) little words? Gartner says they don’t describe individual cats at all. Rather those are three personality traits that can be measured on a spectrum in both lion and domestic cat species. She writes, “In humans, personality is described by five personality factors: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. There is a difference between factors and traits — so no, the most prominent personality traits [in cats and lions] are not dominance, impulsivity, and neuroticism. These are the three personality factors that describe each species — but each individual will range along the spectrum of traits that make up each of the personality factors.”
OK, we’re breathing a little easier now. I know that all sounds very technical, but if you still have doubts, Mikel Delgado, a certified cat behavior consultant and Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, summed things up rather nicely for HuffPo. “We almost find it humorous that cats want to kill us, or hate us or we’re their slaves…If they really wanted to kill us, don’t you think it would have happened?”
She’s got a point, guys. Cats may not be serial killers, but they’re undeniably smart. I’m thinking if one wanted me dead, I wouldn’t be writing this piece. So we can all stop peering nervously over our shoulders as we clean the litter box.
As for those memes, we still think they’re funny. Just saying.
[Image via Shutterstock.]