Two Dutch Girls on a Road Trip to Wiltshire

Road Trip 2017 (2) - Richmond to Chawton to Salisbury.

Good afternoon! Would you like to join me for the second part of my road trip in the South-West of England? A long time wish of my daughter...

Friday, 16 January 2015

What IS our fascination with cats?

Personally, I blame my Mum. She gave birth to me whilst allowing her big ginger tomcat to watch the proceedings on the bed from a distance of 30 centimeters. So, the odds that the very first thing I ever saw was a cat, are huge.
In fact, my very first memory is of pulling said cat's tail. Peter, his name was. He turned on me and scratched my scrawny arm (I was an undernourished child). I was 1,5 years old.

Peter's revenge didn't turn me off cats, to the contrary. They have had my fascination and love ever since. 
Unfortunately, no photographs of Peter survive. But my Mum told me he was a large cat, and a good mouser. 
There were always cats in our house. Usually two, but sometimes more. And guest cats coming to stay. And neighbouring cats coming to visit.
Here speaks your original cat lady, making conversation with every cat I meet on the streets, and making friends with them where ever I happen to stay. 

My Viggo

But I am in good company. I've read that cats, and photographs of cats, are paramount on Facebook, Google+ and other internet services. So what causes us humans to want to share our lives with a cat?
Pete Etchells of the psychology section of The Guardian has written about this phenomenon. 

A study in 2010 asked 4,500 people to self-identify as either a dog person, cat person, both or neither, and looked at five personality traits using a self-report questionnaire. People who identified themselves as cat people showed significantly higher scores for neuroticism and openness than dog people, and significantly lower scores for extroversionagreeableness and conscientiousness. In other words, we (I'm a cat person) tend to stress more, be more open to a variety of experiences, but show poorer self-discipline, cooperativeness and assertiveness. 
And according to another survey from 2010, people who are more highly educated were 1.4 times more likely to own a cat than a dog. This doesn't mean that cat people are smarter than dog people, more that there's a link between higher education and longer work hours. Cats are less time-consuming than dogs, and so people who work longer hours will be more likely to choose cats as pets to fit in with their work life. " (source: The Guardian)

But this still doesn't answer my question. Why do cats fascinate a huge part of the population so much that they feel the need to plaster photos of cats all over the internet?
And many of us get stroppy about it too. A nasty comment about a cat photo will risk the commenter getting verbally lynched or worse.

When I was still using Facebook, I posted a photo of a cat every evening, just before going to bed, as a 'good night' to my 'friends'. In over 7 years, it have been those photos which have generated the most comments. Usually just 'Aw', to 'Aaaaawwwwww', to 'Lovely'.
Because this (in turn) fascinated me, I kept it up. Now that I've stopped, I wonder if all my friends miss me, or just my sweet cats.
(The cats! Wanna bet?!)

So. To come back to the original question once more:
let's face it. Humans have always been fascinated by felines! As far back in (written) history as you can get, there are references and pictures of cats. Writers, painters, composers, they all put cats in their creations.

Dogs feature quite a bit too. Cats though, win the game, hands down. And now that we ordinary humans all have the means of expressing our likes and dislikes on the WWW, cat lovers have seized their chance. From Grumpy Cat to Schrödinger's Cat to French-speaking philosopher Henri to my Viggo, cat lovers just lap it up like our cats lap up cream.

What do we all like so much? Cats have a couple of things dogs do not.
# grace
# aloofness (think Greta Garbo)
# pride/dignity
# a natural ability to rule the household
# independence

Apart from that they are funny, intelligent, cute, gorgeous, and original. And ruthless. That is a mix that cannot be ignored.