The Mental Age of Cats

I expect this has probably been done on the interwebs before, by someone far more skilled than me, but the comments that were made after my previous post got me thinking.

And before anyone starts shouting (just hush now, you in the back, go heckle someone else), I am aware of the term anthropomorphism, and the school of thought that we shouldn’t attribute human ‘characteristics’ onto animals, but bear with me here……pliz…..just for a little while.

Because, seriously folks, having cats is often like having a toddler in the house. Or a teenager.

Also – is itΒ really a case of us attributing these features onto our cats, or just simply a case of recognising they behave in certain ways ? A chicken and egg scenario, perhaps?

Because there is absolutely no doubt that cats have their own individual personalities. Sometimes influenced by previous experiences, but most of the time, it’s just what they were born with.

Cats also have very long memories. When I was 19, I adopted a tiny abandoned kitten. It was the lone survivor of a litter of 4. The mother cat used the garden shed of the shared house I lived in to have her kittens. She obviously get bored easily and just took herself off as my landlord told me this was the third time this had happened. So, despite the landlord not liking cats, I talked him into letting me save this tiny, bewildered bundle of fur. I am not sure how old she was exactly, but still tiny enough that the mother would have done everything, and so she needed a lot of care, which I gladly gave. This tiny little Torteshell cat had a very grumpy little face, and I named her Bear. A local vet gave me a single syringe and some powdered milk free of charge, and as I was so poor, she learned to use a little litter tray lined with shredded up freeby newspapers. And she thrived πŸ˜€

She lived with me in my bedroom until she was about 8 weeks old, when my brother offered her a forever home. I was in Hertfordshire, and he was in Newcastle so I didn’t see Bear again for couple of years. But she remembered me. After that, it was a lot longer – maybe 5 years until fate brought both me and my brother within a few miles of each other. Bear still remembered me, coming to me of her own accord and greeting me like an old friend, which of course I was πŸ™‚ Bear was, if I remember correctly, 21 years old when she moved from this life into the next, and was very well loved and cherished. And I feel quite teary remembering because it could so easily have been different.

But if a capacity to remember is related to intelligence, and we all know cats are intelligent, with intelligence comes emotion, and we know cats feel emotion too. They feel fear, anger, confusion, affection, happiness, loneliness, etc. But they probably have better memories than humans do in some ways. Can we actually remember being looked after when we were tiny ? I can’t.

So – do we project onto them? Or just recognise what is there?

I think we just recognise what is there. And I have had …….discussions? Sometimes heated ones with people from the anthropomorphism school of thought. I drew the conclusion that they had obviously never lived with, nor been loved by a cat.

In my house, it is as impossible for me today to go to the toilet alone as it was when my daughters were toddlers. And woe betide me when I close the loo door. Within seconds of the door closing, I hear “meow”, scuffle scuffle, “meow”, scuffle, as either Rory or Zoe (and sometimes both) try to make the door open by digging at the gap between door and frame.

When I let them in, I get a look of such disapproval, I can’t help but feel guilty for somehow not informing them of where I was going. They rub against my leg, Zoe often reaches up onto her back legs and then leans sideways expecting my leg to catch her from falling. Then……they just wander out again, satisfied I haven’t disappeared, or been swallowed by the noisy toilet monster.

Bedtimes are the same. If the cats are asleep when I go up to bed, soon after I hear this – very plaintive, forlorn “meeeoooow”, and I swear there is the inflection of a question at the end of it “Where are you?”Β  is what I hear. They know damn well that I am only upstairs, but this sorrowful refrain continues from the bottom of the stairs until I call out “Up here, you silly bugger”, then the charge of the light brigade up the stairs begins.

Whenever any sorting out gets done (which is actually quite often in this house, we are not inherently organised) they have to sit and watch, closely following every movement as if the red dot was fixed on us.

They play with the most random things. I once had a cat who’s favourite toy was the discarded wrappers from cigarette packets. Zoe loves to scoot the caps off milk cartons across the floor. And a cardboard box provides hours of fun, while expensive toys get ignored.

They love to fall asleep on you.

They like to chase furry things that are smaller than they are.

When the weekly shopping arrives, each bag has to be investigated, not just with a sniff, but with a full inspection if at all possible. I can never work out if they are checking to make sure we got it right, looking to see what we got them or trying to help.

And as for getting into places they shouldn’t be. Well, you wouldn’t leave a toddler unguarded when the loft door is open, or let them go into a room where dangers may lurk. But you can bet your life the toddler will try.

It doesnt matter how quietly we open the bike shed door – Mitch is there! He got locked in overnight once, bless him.

My Eldest’s room. She loves the cats, just not in her room. If her door is open – Rory is in there. She used to shoot in, in the hope, I think, that the faster she was, the less likely we were to see her.Β  Now, she just saunters in coz she knows she’ll be told to get out, but she can’t help herself.

But, you see, cats are also like teenagers. They push their luck, they stay out later than they should, they bring home unwelcome ‘friends’ (not drunk, but they do make a lot of noise sometimes) in the middle of the night, they never tell you where they are going, they complain verbally when you tell them off, and they sulk. Oh boy, can they sulk – BIG TIME.

In the old days, when I was in a relationship, and went away for a few days, I would get back home – and be completely ignored for at least 24 hrs. My cats would look through me, turn their backs on outstretched hands offering love.

And they inexplicably decide out the blue one day that they don’t like a food they have eaten all their livesΒ  O_o

In common with all children – if a cat wants something, they want it ASAP!! They prefer to be the absolute centre of your world – at ALL times – unless they don’t. They fill our hearts and minds…..well, like only a loved one can πŸ˜€

It’s no wonder they are often referred to as fur-babies, really πŸ˜€


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31 Responses to The Mental Age of Cats

  1. Excellent! You said it all right there. Having spent most of my life with cats and now residing with 18 of them, I’ve learned that they each have their own personalities, likes and dislikes, mood swings, just like humans do. The fear is not whether we ‘personify’ them, but rather that we do not stereotype them. Each cat is an individual, just like the bipeds around them. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  2. gh0stpupp3t says:

    “(just hush now, you in the back, go heckle someone else)”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. magickmogwai says:

    You got it completely right πŸ™‚ only difference is cats never grow out of being toddlers/teenagers they are like that all their lives. And also like teenagers they like playing with toys but will stop as soon as they are being watched and ignore the toys as if to say ‘nope I wasn’t playing’

    Liked by 2 people

    • Moongazer says:

      Thank you πŸ™‚ and Yes!! They do!! It’s so funny when that happens πŸ˜€ In fact Zoe did it last night. I could hear she was doing something in the kitchen and worried it was a mouse I went to look. It was a bint of cardboard LOL I laughed coz she was actually frollicking and she instantly stopped. Bless her.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. pedanticscouser says:

    maybe cats memories are programmed to recall key events, you equate to “comfort and food” a survival type thing.

    we usually try to sneak to bed while cats are out, then shut bedroom door and block it with a draft excluder, that way we don’t have to put up with rodents running across the bed at night.


  5. ScorpionGlow says:

    It is my personal experience that sometimes a cat is “just a cat” in their behavior, and others are quite human. My first Tortoiseshell was 100% human and very devoted. My new Tortie is also human, and bossy. She’s very smart, opens locked doors, and has to know where I am at all times. I have no idea what it’s like to use the bathroom or shower without someone marching in and visiting, if only to stare for a while and walk away, or attempt to jump in with me. Both of my little residents fetch, so they bring me toys to curry favor. LOL.

    Great post. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Moongazer says:

      Thank you πŸ™‚ Your cats are awesome πŸ™‚ Rory used to play fetch πŸ™‚
      Yes, some do seem more human than others. Maybe its down to the intelligence level of individual cats, just like humans.


  6. lydiaa1614 says:

    Oh my goodness, this is spot on! You have described any cat I have ever had to a tee, specially my dear little monkey. I agree, it is not putting human traits on cats, it is just describing exactly as they are. Monkey not only does the bathroom thing but she will sit in front of the water dish we have in there for them with her back to me and stare. This is the signal to change the water. And when I pick up the bowl, she sits on the toilet seat or tank to watch and make sure I clean it out properly and fill it back up. When the bowl is back on the floor and I have left the room, she will have a drink….or take a sniff and walk off, just making me do the work even though she wasn’t thirsty!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Moongazer says:

      LOL They always like to let you know who is really the boss in the house, don’t they?! Your little Monkey sounds like a real character. I love that “this is the signal to change the water” πŸ˜€ I have wondered if they believe they have trained us, or whether they think we pick up on the brainwaves they send our way πŸ™‚


  7. Ellen Hawley says:

    And in common with kids, some of us just can’t help falling in love with them.

    Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. oh they definitely learn from us. My cat still doesn’t always seem to know when to stop before running into the wall! But she also talks to us and I swear she actually understands exactly what we are saying. for instance, she doesn’t give us kitty kisses (as in licks us) but i got a cortizone shot in my hand yesterday and I showed here saying mom has a boo boo and if I could get a kiss to make it better…. wouldn’t you know she gave my hand a kitty kiss next to the bruise where i got the shot! (normally her way of kissing us is her nose to our mouths

    Liked by 1 person

    • Moongazer says:

      Ouchy!! Those cortisone shots are painful!! No wonder you needed a kitty kiss πŸ™‚
      It reminds me of when my Zoe was a kitten. I had cut my thumb while cooking, and had a plaster over it. That night when I was in bed, she gave that plaster a good sniff, then pulled it off with her teeth and set about washing my cut. Each time I pulled away she got quite agitated and followed my thumb even tho I tried hiding my hand under my arm etc, she literally tried to dig it back out. In the end I let her get on with it, figuring I could easily wash it afterwards. But as my daughter pointed out – she was just a few months old, had never been outside and only ate freshly dished out food, so chances were her saliva was more germ free than mine. But it was like her instinct kicked in really strongly, just the way it would if she had a wound. I did go and wash it after tho, don’t worry LOL


      • wasn’t the first time only 1st time in hand. I don’t know if the one in my back felt worse or the hand. When I had one done in my hip I didn’t even feel it go in at all. My hand OMG I thought they were going to give me frost bite or Freezer burn (I think I did et burned) I can tell you I won’t get one done in my back ever again. and def. not in my right hand! the numbness and ‘funny bone’ tingles are gone but still feels odd in a way I’m not sure how to explain. Awww that’s so sweet! I had a cat Tiffany that if I faked crying she’d some over and see if I was ok, sadly she learned I was messing around but one day I stubbed my toe so hard (and this is after she caught on) that she knew i really was hurt and came to see if I was ok. Gods I miss my kitties even the one my old job gave away (wasn’t mine per say but I was the one she liked before anyone else there! at least o the girls and fed her.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Moongazer says:

          It is a wonderful thing to be loved by a cat πŸ™‚ Your cats sound like real sweethearts πŸ™‚
          I had my jab in my wrist – and it was hit the ceiling time, so I really do feel for you. I declined one in my spine when it was suggested. I just read about you having the one in your hip and I was wincing until I saw you hadn’t felt it. Wow!! Thank the starry skies, because it sounded excruciating. The one in my wrist, as painful as it was, was a total success tho. Within a couple of days all my pain had gone, and even tho I get the tingles and swelling still sometimes, it still hasn’t hurt some 20 years later. I hope yours is as successful for you πŸ™‚


          • I never felt the one in my hip! It hurt me so bad that day I guess the pain made it ‘numb’ & dumb! lol…

            This morning I think it was 50s or 60s) (and still is quite cool here in NY) I was and wasn’t awake but I felt sully come in, heard her purring and walking around. The poor baby was cold. She laid down right up against me. (good thing she doesn’t try and sleep between me & the wall, she might have knocked me off the bed!
            I gave into the needle in my back because I refuse to have surgery the people I have known that have gotten surgery on their back say it didn’t do a thing or made it worse. They told me to ice it when I get home and it may take a couple -3 days and then my back should feel fine. WRONG! It was killing me for a few weeks more than usual!
            My hip still does bother me but no one listens they tell me to walk and move around but that makes it worse!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Moongazer says:

            Have you had an MRI? I had surgery on my spine as a slipped disc was badly compressing my nerves. It eased the pain but I have permenant nerve damage.
            Awww, you got used as a hot water bottle lol. Our Mitch sleeps at the bottom of my bed but he’s such a grumpy guts if I move my legs ‘wrong’ he jumps off. But only he knows what is the wrong way lol


          • yep once or 2x for the back and Once for the hip. I don’t have nerve damage but I have Bursitis in my hip and my L4 & L5 is compressed. Sully cuddles up to you, but if you move a bit too much she’ll leave


  9. My cat Sylvester has many human attributes. Yes he is a small furry four footed human who must have his way! LOL!
    I agree with you 100 % β™‘


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