Headstrong fur noses: do cats have free will?

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Few cats listen to their names or other commands. To a certain extent, cat education is possible, but often the fur noses seem to stubborn and follow their attachments. Is it because velvet paws have free will? Or don't you understand what your human being demands of you? "I already understood what you want from me, I just don't feel like it", this stubborn cat seems to think - Shutterstock / Fotievna

Those who don't like cats like to blame the tigers for not caring about their humans, for being obstinate and selfish, getting their heads through and maybe just not smart enough to understand commands. Is there anything there? How is it for free will with velvet paws and do they really care about their human providers?

Indications of free will in cats

In 2013, Japanese researchers from the University of Tokyo investigated whether cats recognize their people's voices or not. The subjects were 20 tigers from 14 households and their owners. The scientists had taped the voices of four strangers as well as the cat owner, each calling for the cat.

The pet was first played three strange voices, then the owner's voice and then another strange voice. The caller himself was not to be seen. The researchers observed the reaction, behavior, sounds and body language of the fur noses to see whether they hear their human voice or not.

In fact, the cat subjects hardly reacted to the strange voices, but showed with the voice of their owner through ear and head movements that they had apparently recognized them. However, they did not meow or go to the source of the call, but only silently took note that their man was calling them and where the noise came from.

This suggests that while cats understand what their humans want them to do, they still decide whether to do so or not. Is this proof of their free will? Or is their attachment determined by evolution and part of their instinct that they cannot consciously influence?

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Stubbornness in cats from an evolutionary point of view

The domestic cat and its descendants were domesticated about 9,500 years ago. The velvet-footed hunters were primarily used to control pests and had to make their own decisions and rely on their instincts instead of paying attention to people's wishes.

In contrast, humans domesticated dogs 15,000 years ago and grew them up to be a reliable partner who obeyed their commands and did what their owners wanted. Dogs are also pack animals and follow a fixed hierarchy within their social groups. There is also a hierarchy in cat groups, but this is more flexible and complex than in dog packs.

From an evolutionary perspective, people have always expected stubbornness from cats. And for the velvet paws it was worthwhile to follow their free will. In dogs, their owners paid attention to obedience, obedience and willingness to cooperate and rewarded appropriate behavior. Therefore, it has always proven to be more advantageous for the four-legged friends to submit to the will of their person instead of getting their own head through.

Do instincts influence free will?

From a human perspective, cat behavior seems to follow free will. Many think that the animals are stubborn, moody and unpredictable. However, it is not quite that simple, because cats are mainly guided by their instincts. That means: From their perspective, they do not show free will, but do what instinctively makes the most sense to them.

The velvet paws are careful on the one hand, and curious on the other. If you can assess a situation well and are not exposed to any danger, you are welcome to explore your surroundings. If the situation is confusing or uncertain, they prefer caution and restraint. This has little to do with obstinacy, but serves to survive. If cats were too risky in unsafe situations, they could put themselves in danger. If they stay in hiding, even though they are not threatened, they will not be able to discover new sources of feed and spot prey.

If you want your cat to listen to you, it must be worth it for your pet. For example, you can always call her by name before she gets her food. She then realizes that there is food if she follows your call. Similarly, you can influence the apparent free will of your kitty for other educational goals. For example, if your cat plays the alarm clock at night, just ignore it and reward her with her food when she has waited until you get up on her own.

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