Cats teach­ing kit­tens

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PETS -

IN THE past, peo­ple won­dered if cats in­her­ited traits or if they learned them. One of the most sig­nif­i­cant tests of how much be­hav­iour is passed by mummy cats to kit­tens was car­ried out in the 1920s by Pro­fes­sor Kuo Zing Yang, a Chi­nese psy­chol­o­gist work­ing in China and the USA who wanted to know why some cats kill rats and oth­ers don’t.

Over sev­eral years, Kuo raised kit­tens in dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances. Some lived with their mums, some were reared in iso­la­tion. Some saw their mums kill rats and oth­ers lived with non- rat killers. Kuo was a thor­ough chap, so he tried the ex­per­i­ments with mice, dif­fer­ent coloured rats and other vari­ables.

At the end of it all, Kuo’s con­clu­sion was this: “Our study has shown that kit­tens can be made to kill a rat, to love it, to hate it, to fear it or to play with it: It de­pends on the life his­tory of the kit­ten.”

When Kuo did his work, it was new but to­day it’s ac­cepted that cats are just like peo­ple in that they teach their kit­tens the facts of life – as they see them! This means that a feral mummy cat will teach her ba­bies to be afraid of peo­ple, whereas a happy house cat will teach hers that peo­ple are safe.

A shy cat can be helped to over­come its shy­ness but with a feral cat, you’re deal­ing with a wild an­i­mal. That’s too deeply in­grained, usu­ally, to over­come. How­ever, if you have feral cats in an ur­ban area, you can help them adapt, as long as work over the gen­er­a­tions. Food for thought, isn’t it?

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