Originally Posted by Persi & Alley
I have read numerous times that cats cannot have human emotions such as the human emotion of being mad at somebody. I have also read that cats have no concept of time; if you leave for work and come back ten hours later they will be just as glad to see you as if you had been gone for ten days. So the experts have always told me. But here on TCS people are always talking about their cat(s) getting mad at them.
I wonder if being mad is like the mad emotion in humans. Being normal, I occasionally get mad at my spouse. And of course there are times when she gets mad at me. The length of time that each would be mad at the other would depend on the "crime". Here is my input on the subject.
I brush and comb Persi every morning but there are still times when I hit a snag. Determined to get the snag out before it becomes worse, I continue combing/brushing until I get it out, knowing it will be worse tomorrow if I do not. This action on my part makes Persi very "mad" at me and he will in fact threaten to do me harm. Now here is where being mad and the concept of a time frame come together: When I am done with the grooming session he will head into the walk in closet where his tent is located and he will get into the tent "mad" at me. There can be no doubt in my mind he is mad at me.
The next thing on my agenda is to come down here in my office where it is very rare that Persi does not join me. Today is such a day. No Persi. He did not even come down to share my roast beef sandwich today at lunch time. You know this guy is really mad at me. He is still up there in his tent. In a few hours it will be dinner time. He has never failed to get over being mad by dinner time and will come downstairs where he will remain the rest of the evening.
Has he actually been feeling the emotion us humans call mad? Does he have a concept of time for how long he will stay mad? (When he gets mad it seems he stays mad longer some times more than others.)
So, what do you think about this subject as it pertains to your
I don't believe cats get mad in the way we think about it. I don't think they get the "You suck and you deserve bad things!" kind of feeling that humans do.
I think it is wrong to say cats don't have emotions, but their emotions are less "meta." If you think about it (and it's a bit of a mental pretzel, since it's hard for us to imagine feeling in a non-human way), being "mad" in the human sense is kind of meta. It's connecting a person's overall personhood to certain actions. I don't think cats do that. Because the human emotion of "mad" tempts us to act spitefully, and I am certain that cats don't do that.
I think, rather, they are trying to communicate "I didn't like that" or "Don't do that" by staying away. They aren't trying to be spiteful, the way humans can be. They aren't telling us we're being bad people. They're telling us they don't like that and they don't want to be around if we're going to do that because it's unpleasant for them. But there's no "meta" implication that we're being bad people, or that we deserve bad things. They just don't want that happening to them again, so staying away is an effective measure to ensure that it doesn't happen.
Cats never "strike back," which is why I don't think they get mad like humans do. If they scratch you or something, they aren't doing it to "get back at you." They're doing it because they feel threatened and they think they need to defend themselves. If you're doing something to a cat they don't like, and you stop, it's over. They aren't going to come back and re-initiate a conflict. And angry human sometimes will.
I don't know how well I'm explaining that, but there it is.
As far as a concept of time, I don't really know. I think cats do have a concept of time, but they don't have a concept of future, if that makes sense.
My elder kitty knew the difference between me going to school or work for 6 to 8 hours, and when I left for months traveling. She never worried when I left for school/work, but she was beside herself while I was away traveling. So that suggests she does have some concept of time. Maybe not a fantastically detailed one, but something.
However, after my traveling, she would get nervous every time I left the house for about 6 months. It didn't matter how long I was gone. Whether it was an hour or a weekend, her reaction was the same.
I think she remembered that I had once went away for a long time, and she got that nervous feeling whenever I was gone after that, because she worried I'd be gone a long time again. And because she had that FEELING, it didn't matter how long I was gone -- she still felt bad. She perhaps didn't realize that I hadn't been gone very long, because it felt just as bad to her.
So perhaps, cats measure time by how they feel.