Dogs, then cats, then more dogs
September 26, 2019 2:23 PM   Subscribe

What makes dogs so special and successful? Love. (non-WaPo link here)

Cats bond with their people too, study finds.
‘He brought me a tissue when I was ill’: the moment readers realised their cat loves them.

Facebook poster Meu Pequeno Pet shows us how sleeping dogs lie.
posted by Johnny Wallflower (41 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Facebook poster Meu Pequeno Pet shows us how sleeping dogs lie.

I think I'll leave that one be.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:52 PM on September 26, 2019 [8 favorites]

I'm a dog person by habit and nature, but when a cat crawls on top of you, insists on being petted and then starts drooling on you... that's, um... special.
posted by sjswitzer at 2:59 PM on September 26, 2019 [14 favorites]

My cats don't give a damn when I'm ill or sad. They behave exactly the same.

On the other hand, sometimes when I'm petting them they reach out a paw and gently pat my face like they're trying to pet me back.

Plus Bridget likes to sleep between us with her head on the pillow and two legs draped over me, exactly like a human spooning. And when I roll over, she'll climb over me so she is always lying looking at my face.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:12 PM on September 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

typing this left handed as my little cuddler is getting his ear scratched with the right.
posted by biffa at 3:25 PM on September 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

@stillnocturnal: There's a theory that some cats know when a person is going to die. Maybe yours do and so they're not concerned when you're ill as they know you will recover.
posted by diane47 at 3:25 PM on September 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

I left my cat with my ex on the west coast recently. We came over from the east together with a dog (who was unambiguously my ex's good boy, though he definitely adopted me) and then adopted the little feral kitten. I was that cat's favorite in every way. He stuck to me like glue. He was a little weary of my ex before I left, probably because the dog was so possessive of her. But while I know the pup would be crestfallen if separated from my ex in a prolonged way, I had no real worries that my little cat would be ok and glom onto ex when I left. He'd just mope for a day or so and say, "Oh. Dad went out hunting and got killed or something. That happens to my people. Anyone in the remaining clan know their way around a can-opener? Who's warm at night and has them big paws that give good pets?"
(edit: yes, virtue the cat songs still make me misty)
posted by es_de_bah at 3:48 PM on September 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

Our cats have all loved us, and made it clear they want to be around us more than they want food, so I'm always perplexed when people say they are cold. I wonder if it is their fixed expression and intense eyes? Dogs have much more expressive faces so it's easier to figure out they like you.
posted by Peach at 3:52 PM on September 26, 2019 [12 favorites]

Cats bond with their people too, study finds.

I don't know if every cat bonds with their owner, but my last cat, a female Maine Coon, absolutely bonded with me. She was a friendly cat in general, but we got her when I was a younger teen and when I went away to college, she noticeably would be aloof to me for several days when I returned home for breaks and then start acting more affectionate again. I brought her with me when I moved in with my future wife, and after being around all the time for a number of years, we got married and went on our honeymoon, and when I returned after the honeymoon she was Very aloof for several weeks before returning to normal. She was not having it with me going away anymore. Did not approve.

After I moved in with my wife, she developed this habit where, every day, the last thing before I went to bed and sometimes when I first woke up as well, she had to lie on my chest and have me pet her. She had to be pet a particular way, which is that she would lick my fingers and then have me groom her with the damp fingers, particularly around her face and ears.

She died of a heart attack two days before the 2016 election because the fucking vet kept deciding she probably didn't need meds for her heart murmur yet. So I guess what I'm saying is thanks for posting this, asshole, now I'm crying and looking at cats we can't adopt because I need to get my wife an allergist appointment first and then maybe it'll turn out we can't ever adopt cats again. And also this place is unfit for cat habitation because of my fucking neck impingement, ADHD, and depression.
posted by Caduceus at 3:53 PM on September 26, 2019 [16 favorites]

Which probably isn't helping my wife's allergies either.
posted by Caduceus at 3:54 PM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

My Gidgette is definitely bonded to me. Her sister, Ivory, not so much. Ivory's an aloof little princes, though she does tolerate my father. Sat - Tues I was sick and Gidgette was under the covers with me the whole time. Today I had outpatient surgery and she was waiting for me to get home. She spent the day under the covers keeping me warm. I just celebrated Gidgette's Gotch Ya Day last weekend, and Ivory's a few months ago. I can't believe it's been ten years.

Cat Tax: Ivory and Gidgette.
posted by kathrynm at 4:02 PM on September 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

so I'm always perplexed when people say they are cold

I think it's partially due to cat expressions being almost the opposite of human or dog expressions. Dogs will smile at you. They'll stare at you lovingly. In good homes, they'll read your mood very well. Most dogs are happy to approach new people.

Cats have a face that many people read as angry by default. When they squint at you, it means they like you but it makes them look even angrier since that's what a squint would often mean to people. If they really, really like & trust you, they'll pointedly look away. Humans interpret that as snobbish indifference or dislike, since that's what that gesture would mean if a human did it.

And cats also don't follow human manners most of the time. To a cat, jumping away when you're done with cuddles is perfectly polite. To a person, that's going to come off by default as rude. When encountering a new creature or person, it's normal for the cat to go hiding because that's the sort of thing that keeps them alive in the wild. But, again, makes the cat seem anti-social to a human who doesn't take that into account.

One neat factoid I learned recently is why male cats are often more chill than female cats. Female cats have a small territory and don't like changes. They definitely don't like to share. Boy cats like to wander, and have to be at least somewhat accepting of encountering changes or different creatures in their large-ish territory.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 4:44 PM on September 26, 2019 [18 favorites]

I like that at least a third of those sleeping dog pictures are greyhounds.

As a big pile of limbs myself, I can appreciate the need to find creative ways to organize them while sleeping.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:06 PM on September 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

So sorry about your Coon, Caduceus. I had an Abyssinian who bonded with me, but we had to let him go because my wife became severely allergic.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:10 PM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Caduceus: I used to be mildly allergic to cats. Now I'm not. I've never had allergy shots.

I did keep things pretty clean for a long time, though, and avoided my main allergens very carefully. I think it gave my immune system a chance to calm down.

Now I'm waiting until I get this place super clean, reduce my stress, and have a calm interlude, before adopting kittens, to reduce the chance I'll develop that allergy again.
posted by amtho at 5:37 PM on September 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Teegeeack - I've thought the same thing! Cats have a hard time looking sympathetic partly because they have no eyebrows! And then I read recently that dogs have developed special eyebrow ridge muscles -- theory ratified.
posted by amtho at 5:40 PM on September 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

For what it's worth, there are lower-allergen cat breeds (Siberians, Balinese, Russian Blue). It probably won't help if the allergic person is severely, needs-epi-pen allergic, but for mild to moderate allergies, this might be a good guide.

If you want to go the shelter cat route (good for you!) then light-colored, female, longer-haired cats have less of the "Fel D 1" allergen that is the most common culprit in cat allergies.

Definitely keeping the cat out of the bedroom (which is hard, I know), avoiding carpets, and using a HEPA air purifier help. The idea is to reduce contact with the allergen and places it can cling to.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:42 PM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Anyone who's ever owned a cat knows that they are the sweetest, most affectionate beings in the world while also being perplexing assholes.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:14 PM on September 26, 2019 [30 favorites]

I realized my cat Sassy loved me when I was like 10 years old and crying over a fight with my parents, and she came in and would just nuzzle across my arm as I laid there crying.

(Stop cutting onions people).
posted by symbioid at 7:22 PM on September 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

I came late into the life of two cats as they were with my girlfriend (now wife) for 11 years before they met me. They were a brother and a sister, and the first day after I stayed over at my partner’s place, working from her apartment while she went off to teach, the brother got up into my lap early that morning and went to sleep, and that was it.

We moved in together, and when I would go winter camping, I’d come home all cold and often wet, and BoyCat would wait for me to sit down on the couch after setting all of my gear down and he would just curl up on my lap, even if I was cold and snowy, like, “oh, you’ve given me the warms all this time and now you need it, so I give back.”

They were both old. They slept a lot. They passed away within a week of each other.

We adopted to rescues last year, another sibling pair. The boy is a shameless beggar for skritches . His sister is more aloof and dignified. I recently took a job where I work from home full time so have to keep my office door closed to stay productive, and the cats Object To This Very Much. Anytime I am out of the office, the cats are up on my ankles, wanting attention, and as soon as I make a move for the office, Boy Cat sprints for the door to get in before me, daring me to kick him out. It’s gotten to the point where Boy Cat just follows me on my heels wherever I walk and my wife teases us and says that she wanted a cat, but I have trained him to be a puppy.
posted by bl1nk at 7:38 PM on September 26, 2019 [9 favorites]

I read the third link as “cats bored with their people too” and thought that study nailed it.
posted by vorpal bunny at 8:05 PM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Our two cats have no relationship with each other that doesn't involve several feet of distance and general wishing the other weren't here, but they each have very individual relationships with me and mr hippybear.

The boy cat hangs out in my space all the time, and he's nearly conversant with short sounds about asking for attention and understanding "not now" vs "c'mere", which is oddly charming. He sort of tolerates mr hippybear but won't turn down his scritches he just doesn't seek them out.

The girl cat ADORES mr hippybear. She hangs out next to him on a futon most of the day, curled up on her pillow, but often also lounging in the middle of "her side" gazing up at him with this stupid expression on her face. He's been away from home for work for extended periods of time and when he's been gone, she shifts into the "lay on my chest and purr every night at bedtime" mode, which is sweet. She'll also sleep on the corner of my bed. But as soon as he's back, I only see her in my space because I control the food.
posted by hippybear at 8:26 PM on September 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

Anyone who's ever owned a cat knows that they are the sweetest, most affectionate beings in the world while also being perplexing assholes

This is largely true of human beings as well
posted by thivaia at 8:38 PM on September 26, 2019 [11 favorites]

Yeah but I'm a little more upset when a human drools on my floor when they're happy.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:02 PM on September 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

But you should be thrilled any time any being shows you they are happy in your presence!
posted by hippybear at 9:08 PM on September 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah but I'm a little more upset when a human drools on my floor when they're happy.

That's the reason I'm no longer invited to meetups.
That's not true, but it was a lot of fun to say

posted by Greg_Ace at 9:20 PM on September 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

That's not a sleeping dog, that's the giant sloth from Ice Age.
posted by tigrrrlily at 9:41 PM on September 26, 2019

I've had at least two instances in my life when I was ugly-crying and a strange, unknown cat came to comfort me. Different cat each time. Never saw either of them again. I actually prefer dogs to cats, but cats don't need me to be ok like dogs do, so it's a bit easier to be comforted by them.
posted by windykites at 10:55 PM on September 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

but cats don't need me to be ok like dogs do

This in a nutshell is why I find displays of affection by cats to be so awesome, and why I find dogs in general (with many specific exceptions) to be so difficult. It's hard to quantify but I'd prefer to be ignored 50% of the time and genuinely sought out the other 50% rather than having attention paid to me always and the ingratiating smile and pant of always right there.

I guess it's the dogs who best read that I'm a cat person who I get along with best. There seem to be a subsection of domestic canine who know I don't want to be pestered for pets and throw the indoor rope and pet me and stuff like that all the time. Other humans do. Dogs that can sort that out, they generally are the dogs I get along with.
posted by hippybear at 11:08 PM on September 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

Sometimes what the cat eats affects how allergic people are to it.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 3:28 AM on September 27, 2019

My little one sits on the back of my chair or sofa and drapes her tail so it curves around my neck. Every now and then she'll twitch the tip like a little hug. She's harder for me to read emotionally than other cats I've had--has more of a flat affect--but I know she loves me when she does the tail thing.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:31 AM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

From the study link: While Mills added that kittens show attachment to their mother, he said it remains unclear whether they form a similar attachment to their owners.

Mills has clearly never met Sora, who is the absolute definition of a mama's boy.
posted by telophase at 7:30 AM on September 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I got a kitten when I was in the Peace Corps who definitely imprinted on me -- she'd sit on my lap and chew on my shirt buttons in something that was clearly transferred nursing behavior.

When she grew up and had kittens (I felt completely irresponsible about that, but there wasn't any way to get her spayed where I was living) she really, really wanted me there when they were being born. The morning she was due she (uncharacteristically) followed me halfway to my teaching job before giving up and going home. When I got home she hadn't had the kittens yet, but was in the box I'd set up for her with some old towels padding it. I sat with her for an hour or so, and then got up to walk about fifteen feet away to get myself some coffee. She got out of the box to follow me, and immediately had her first kitten on the floor halfway between the box and the kitchen.

She was a good cat. I got her because I knew the house I was moving into had rats, and she cleared the place out. She was tiny, but effective, and I called her Harley the Terror Kitten.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:49 AM on September 27, 2019 [7 favorites]

Anyone actually go through the sleeping dog pix far enough to see the Boxer that's -- no kidding -- twisted 180 degrees at the middle and then folded over in half?
It's like one of those Google Earth pix where they capture someone at two points in time and the legs are in one place and the torso is over there somewhere. Seriously, real or photoshopped, it's totally disturbing, makes me cringe when I look at it.
That said an ex-GF had a Boxer that could just about do that, so maybe?
posted by martin q blank at 7:49 AM on September 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

My cats aren't obviously affectionate. They don't cuddle (mostly*) and don't seem to notice when my husband or I are sick or upset. But they are almost always in the same room as us and frequently within arms length, which I take to mean that they do love us. Our boy cat, Mozzie, is a bit of a social eater, and he loves when we sit down with him next to his bowl of food. He always gets so his back is right next to where we're sitting and chows down. We had problems with him eating when he was younger, so this makes all of us feel good: he trusts us to protect his back while he eats, we feel happy because he's eating so well. It doesn't seem like much, but it means a lot to us.

* Anya sometimes sort of cuddles by laying just barely within reach and demanding scritches on her head, sometimes going so far as to fall asleep with her head resting in one of our hands. It's the cutest thing ever, and she's super shy very anyone except my husband and I (and one animal-whisperer friend), so it feels very special when she does it.
posted by ashirys at 10:24 AM on September 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Teegeeack - I've thought the same thing! Cats have a hard time looking sympathetic partly because they have no eyebrows! And then I read recently that dogs have developed special eyebrow ridge muscles -- theory ratified.

I stand by my theory that cats DO have eyebrows.

They're called ears and they're a little higher up on the head than human eyebrows but just as expressive.
posted by some loser at 10:37 AM on September 27, 2019 [9 favorites]

My cat died six months ago today/tomorrow and I'm so sad. I am so sad I couldn't save him every day. It sucks.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:37 AM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

So sorry. Hugs.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:23 PM on September 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry about your cat.
posted by evilDoug at 2:43 PM on September 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

I agree that cat ears are their eyebrows. What's hilarious is that they use the ears on you when they're looking away from you, too.
posted by Peach at 7:30 PM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Don't think I posted this summary of cat-human interaction research before, but lots of good tidbits that are also very cat typical:
[Miklosi] and colleagues conducted the pointing test at pet owners' homes. The cats performed as well as the dogs. But, foreshadowing a headache that would plague the field of feline social cognition, several cats "dropped out" of the study, according to the research paper. Some stopped paying attention. Others simply walked away from the testing site.
There's also a bit where they put a cat in a strange lab, where the cat freaks out until its human friend comes in. Then of course, being a cat, it briefly says hello then walks around all cool-like, exploring the lab, as if it were totally OK with this whole situation.
posted by mark k at 7:58 AM on September 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Our little "angel" Malcolm had a brief period when he was a small kitten that he greatly enjoyed napping on my spouse's chest. That period passed and for something like four years afterward he was essentially a hard "no" on cuddling... until one magical day we've come to call "The Thanksgiving Miracle".

We'd been fussing all morning, in prep for the trek to the family gathering. We took a break before getting fancy and loading the car, sitting on the couch for a moment to catch our breaths. Mal waltzed in and jumped straight into my spouse's lap, something he had NEVER done before. He looked a little out of sorts himself for a hot minute, but then settled right on in and turned himself into a purring cinnamon bun.

Every single day since then he's sought one or both of us out for cuddling at some point in his adventures. These days he usually spends evenings curled in my spouse's lap and early mornings or late nights perched on my chest and making biscuits on me.

It's pretty wonderful.

I'm reasonably sure I accidentally taught him a behavioral way to express his desire for physical contact, too. For a long time, if I'd walk into a room and find him there bein' a cat I'd say hello and reach down to give him a pet or a scritch.

These evenings he'll waltz into the room, jump on the bed and walk towards our heads, scream once really loudly, and then climb onto my chest so I can give him affection.

"Walk into a room, make a sound with your face, and then we touch each other". It happens just like that, every single night. He does not do this with my spouse. His behavior when he wants her attention is structured entirely differently.
posted by radiosilents at 2:04 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

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