Cats teaching kittens
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?