Actually, cats do show affection. They bring us food, although we often don't appreciate it the way we should! They groom (lick) us.
By Kim Campbell Thornton
updated 8:19 a.m. ET, Fri., July 31, 2009
Dena Harris of Madison, N.C., endures a daily slapping around by her 8-year-old cat, Olivia, who taps her on the shoulder early each morning until she gets up and feeds her.
And Cecile Moore put up with acts of extortion from her cat Henry who regularly sat on the top of the bureau of her Athens, Ga., home and scooted a bottle of perfume toward the edge until she got out of bed.
While we'd never tolerate that behavior from a house guest — or even our own kids — we take it from cats, along with their extreme independence and their refusal to show affection except on their own terms and frequent shedding. Our relationship is based on us giving and them taking — kind of like a bad boyfriend. And yet, we adore, feed and house them, and we constantly try to please them in a hopelessly co-dependent kind of way. What does that say about us?
“There’s a part of us as human beings that I think is attracted to dominance in other creatures,” says psychotherapist Lois Abrams, Ph.D., who practices in Los Alamitos, Calif. “There’s a part of us that likes to be controlled.”
To be fair, we may not really have a choice. A pair of recent studies point to the persuasively manipulative ways felines have of turning us into putty in their paws.
A study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America makes the case that ages ago cats deliberately and cunningly domesticated themselves and so they could persuade people to give them free food and shelter — sometimes against their owners' better judgment.
“Cats do not perform directed tasks and their actual utility is debatable, even as mousers,” wrote the study authors. “Accordingly, there is little reason to believe an early agricultural community would have actively sought out and selected the wildcat as a house pet.”
Once in our houses, cats apparently began to train us to give them exactly what they wanted.
A study published this month in Current Biology revealed that today's cats have learned to motivate people to fill their food dishes by combining an urgent cry or meowing sound with the comforting sound of a purr, a noise that’s annoying yet endearing and definitely difficult to ignore.
Shaw says there are lots of reasons she does Willow’s bidding. She believes that cats and dogs are intellectually and emotionally stimulated by human attention. And, she asks, why keep cats around if we don’t want them to interact or communicate with us? But most importantly, she responds to Willow because she loves her.