This title and article are misleading, no where in the NYT piece does it say cats think we're "big stupid cats", just that they use their social norms towards us, as that's all they know. The cnet article is juvenile speculation.
That cats don't know we are different . . . I wholeheartedly disagree. In some respects, they treat us like cats, probably because that is the language they know. To be fair, however, many people treat their pets like little dumb humans while realizing that they aren't actually people.
What the hell is an anthrozoologist, anyway? That sounds like something he made up to call himself.
Wikipedia also has an entry on cryptozoology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptozoology
That doesn't make it any less of a made up word used by pseudo-scientists to self describe nor does it mean I should give much credence to anything a cryptozoologist says. The key difference is that I know cryptozoology is largely pseudoscience whereas I merely suspect it in the case of anthrozoology. At least the word, "cryptozoology," is a reasonable description of what they are trying to do: the study of hidden animals. Anthrozoologoy translates roughly as man animal study, a term pregnant with meaninglessness. So, let's see what Wikipedia has to say about anthrozoology:
"Anthrozoology . . . is the study of interaction between living things."
Hey, I have friends who work in that field. They call themselves . . . "ecologists." Or, if you want to limit it to the types of interactions in the article, "animal behaviourists." They might even say that they work on "inter-species communication." So, I apologise for being dismissive of a term I have never heard before used in a context where there are other widely used terms that would seemingly be appropriate.
And to any genuine scientists out there studying human animal interactions, I genuinely apologise for my snark. It is unfortunate that my first encounter with the field of "anthrozoology" has been tainted by the inane nonsense in this article. That said, I don't think human-animal interactions have been nearly as neglected as the wikipedia article implies.
That said, cats probably have enough brainpower to come up with the concept of "I'm me". Just watch a cat, or a dog for that matter, looking at itself in a mirror if you need convincing.
"Take care of me" and "feed me" are pretty established too.
Have you seen this TED talk http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke... ? "being a cat" is related to self-awareness. Does cat has the same self-awareness as human beings?
It might look like this:
Again that's just speculation. I would love to see scientific data here.
While being human you might have much more sophisticated criterions and first criterion might be "is it human?". Most probably how it smells and how big it is will not be enough.
Flat out wrong. Dogs inherently have a hunting and chasing instinct, so in the wild a dog will try and spook a cat to make it run, and then chase it and try and kill it if it does. If the cat doesn't run, or better yet, fights back (I've seen multiple cats do this), the dog will back off. And cats know enough to be concerned when a giant animal approaches, which is likely to trigger a fight or flight response, if the cat doesn't feel sufficiently protected where it is.
And many people have both dogs and cats living together, even in some instances sleeping together. I suspect the dog views the cat as a pack animal (and important to the owner, the alpha), and the cat views the dog as a source of warmth, but that is still very different from "inherently know(ing) they don't like each other".
One day, Tom ambled round a corner into the waiting area to get to his patch of sun in the middle, just as someone entered with a pretty big rottweiler; the dog saw Tom and started to bark and growl, but Tom just looked up and stayed in his warm spot in the middle of the room.
The dog just stared at Tom as if trying to work out why the cat hadn't moved. After a few more grunts, the dog just sat in a corner and wouldn't take his eyes off Tom. When the owner was called into the consulting room, the dog crept low around the perimeter of the room, working hard to keep as far away as possible and not letting Tom out of his sight - he was really spooked by the laid-back cat. Funniest 'stand off' I've ever seen.
Do you know if this sort of behaviour has also been witnessed in wolf packs?
That understanding isn't necessarily based on observed behavior or referenced studies though.
I'd like to point out that this is an instance of you thinking of cats as small, stupid humans. Cats do not treat their siblings any different than other cats at the same age.
All that aside, cats do use their own body language towards us quite a bit, like the head-bump, the "making biscuits" thing and the slow eye blink. But they also customize things for us as well, like I've read other researchers who say cats don't meow (in a non-growl way) with each other after they are kittens, that is reserved for talking to humans.
I remember reading that domestication tends to cause juvenile traits to carry into adulthood.
One interesting side-note is the idea that humans are also domesticated animals, and that we self-domesticated. A large part of what makes us human is that we maintain a degree of brain plasticity as we age and don't ever fully become adults. A fascinating piece of evidence for this is the way that baby chimps resemble baby humans, both in looks and behaviour.
You clearly haven't met our neighbours and their delightful King Charles Spaniels.
Huh. What's your best guess how she tells males and females (of another species: humans) apart?
There is room for the cat to be deferential to the much larger human and less so to the similar sized cat. There are also cats that don't much like visitors.
My (normal size) cat was friendly to human visitors as long as they were really big (100Kg+). It occasionally attacked other human visitors, presumably because they were easily scared. So perhaps it's just trying to assert dominance, regardless of species, but based on its estimated chance to succeed.
"Given that he believes cats are semi-feral and that they think we are cats too, we must surely consider that cats aren't all that stupid -- because they must realize that we are, in fact, quite that stupid."
Nonetheless, opinions about dogs and cats really are homogeneous. Maybe this means our ideas about those animals have been constructed over time. We wouldn't be so eager to call an eagle "loyal" or "smart". Our relationship with dogs and cats is so long that we've had enough time to carefully craft their images.
A lot of that has to do with a cat's expression, which we assign human significance to. If a human looks at you through half-closed eyes, it can be a sign of suspicion; whereas if a cat looks at you through half-closed eyes, it usually means the cat likes you and trusts you, and feels comfortable around you.
Just because we know what a human's intentions would be if it did what a cat did, does not mean we ascribed the same quality or depth of intention to a cat.
But this one takes the cake - they've even assigned similar (aeluromorphous) intent on the part of cats. Which is extra cute.
Dogs' motivations are well understood, while cats are less scrutable, and so we pretend they're complex, and therefore like ourselves.
Enjoy the happiness happening onto you right now.
More like that animal is interesting that lager ugly one over there is not.