Why are dogs more expressive than cats

To read aloud

One of the proverbial stupidities against which science fights in vain is the opinion that cats are wrong. It is unclear to me how it came about. The cat's way of hunting, the quiet sneaking of prey, may have contributed to this, because tigers and lions hunt no differently. On the other hand, the cat is spared the accusation of being bloodthirsty, although like those predators it also bites its prey to death. I do not know of a single behavior peculiar to the cat that one could even approximately, if wrongly, call "wrong". There are few animals in the face of which the skilled person could read the instantaneous face so clearly as in that of the cat. You always know where you are, what action can be expected in the next moment. How unmistakable is the expression of trusting friendliness when the face is turned towards the viewer without wrinkles, the ears are erect and the eyes are open, how directly does every surge, fearful or hostile excitement express itself in the states of tension in the facial muscles. The stripes in the face of a wild-colored cat make these gentle movements of the facial skin even more clear and increase the expressiveness of the facial expressions, one of the reasons why I prefer the wild-colored tabby domestic cat to all others. A faint hint of suspicion - by no means fear - and the innocent round eyes have become somewhat oblong and slanted, the ears have given up their upright and "inclined" position, and there is no need for a subtle change in posture or posture tail tip to and fro to reveal the altered state of mind.

And how expressive are the cat's threats, how completely different from each other, depending on who they are aimed at, the human friend, if he "takes too much", or a seriously feared enemy; But also different, depending on whether the threat is only meant defensively or whether the cat feels superior to the opponent and announces its attack. She always does this. Apart from unreliable and crazy psychopaths, which are just as common among highly bred cats as they are among highly bred dogs, a cat never scratches or bites without seriously and clearly warning the offender, yes, the threatening gestures that are gradually becoming stronger are usually experienced immediately before the attack a jerky increase, which in a sense means an ultimatum: "If you do not stop immediately, I regret that I will be forced to take reprisals!"

The cat threatens a dog, or even a large, dangerous predator, by making the well-known hump: this, as well as the raised fur on the back and tail (with the tail held a little sideways), make the animal bigger for the enemy appear as it is, especially since the cat also stands a little broadly to the opponent, a behavior that is similar to the imposing behavior of some fish. The ears are laid flat, the corners of the mouth pulled back, the nose is wrinkled. A soft, but extremely threatening, metallic growl rises from the animal's chest and at times, with simultaneous reinforcement of the frowning of the nose, turns into the well-known "spitting", that is, into an intermittent hissing, in which the throat is very wide open and the Canines are bared. In itself, this threatening mimic is undoubtedly meant to be defensive; it is most often observed when a cat unexpectedly faces a large dog before it has been able to flee. If the cat comes even closer despite the warning, the cat does not flee, but attacks when a certain "critical distance" is exceeded: it throws itself in the dog's face and uses claws and teeth to work on the most sensitive areas, possibly the eyes and nose of the opponent . If the enemy rebounds for even a moment, the cat regularly uses this minimal breathing space to flee. So the brief attack is just a means of getting away.

In one case, however, the hunched-over cat attack can continue when a mother believes her kittens are threatened by a dog. Here the cat walks towards its enemy from a greater distance; as it maintains a hunchback and broadside position, a very peculiar way of moving comes about: the cat gallops across its longitudinal axis towards the opponent. I have not observed this behavior in an adult tomcat, except in play; he never comes into the position of having to attack a superior enemy in this way. With nursing female cats, however, the attack in a broad position always means unconditional and complete self-sacrifice. In this state, the gentlest kitten is almost invincible. I've seen big dogs, notorious cat killers, surrender to such an attack and flee. Ernest Seton Thompson vividly describes an adorable and undoubtedly true story: in Yellowstone Park, a mother cat chased a bear and chased it until it climbed a tree in fear!

Again, different, and this time related to gestures of humility, is the threat of a cat that is excessively seized by a friend. This type of inhibited gestures of submission, superimposed by pleading for mercy, can often be observed at cat shows, where the animals are in strange surroundings and have to allow themselves to be attacked by strangers, for example by judges. If the cat is frightened by such circumstances, it crouches, its body becomes lower and lower, until it is finally snuggled close to the surface. The ears are flattened threateningly, the tip of the tail lashes back and forth in excitement, and at higher levels of excitement the cat sometimes begins to growl. In this mood, the animal is always looking for support: it drives quickly behind a cupboard, in a fireplace or behind a central heating system; if such a cover is not achievable, it at least presses itself against the wall, always in such a way that its back is turned to the wall and pressed against it, lying at an angle. The inclined position can be noticed even if the harassed animal has to sit freely on the table in front of the judge; it means a threatening hint of the readiness to strike with one of the front paws. The more frightened the animal becomes, the more crooked it lies there, and finally it lifts one paw, its claws sticking out ready to strike. If the fear increases further, the same reaction leads to the last, desperate defense the cat has at its disposal: it rolls over on its back and turns all weapons at the adversary. Even the cat connoisseur is amazed at how calmly the experienced judges attack a cat that has raised its paw to a blow and tore its throat open, singing the melody of the hangover song, which is falling and swelling. Although the cat says unequivocally in such cases: "Don't touch me, otherwise I will bite and strike", it does not do so at the decisive moment, or only in a restrained manner and with little penetration. Even under this heavy load the acquired inhibitions of the tamed "good" tiger withstand! The cat does not pretend to be friendly and then suddenly bite and scratch, but rather threatens to avoid the annoyance of the judges, which is unbearable from their point of view, but then does not have the heart to carry out the threats. This is how it is with the "falsehood" of the cat.

However, I do not want to give her credit for not being able to disguise herself; but I consider it a sign of the dog's higher intelligence that he can do just that! A few observations are made here. My old Bully had a fine feeling for it when he was "embarrassed". Undoubtedly, clever dogs will be very aware when they are playing a somehow pathetic and, in a human sense, comic role. Many of them get deeply angry or deeply depressed when one laughs at them. Bully was already old and the sharpness of his eyes had decreased considerably, which is why he often accidentally barked at me or family members returning home. He obviously took this as a serious embarrassment and was embarrassed even when I tactfully ignored his error. One day, however, in such a situation he did something strange, which at first I thought was a coincidence, but later had to recognize as a very high level of intelligence, namely a purposeful presentation of false facts.

I had stepped through the yard gate and before I had time to close it behind me the dog had rushed towards me, barking loudly. Then he recognized me, hesitated, was embarrassed for a moment, began to bark again, pushed past me, ran through the entrance into the street and over to the neighbour's gate, where he continued to bark furiously, as if he had it from the beginning "intended". At that time I still believed him and took the moment of embarrassment for an observation error on my part. Because behind that gate was actually an enemy dog ‚Äč‚Äčthat Bell's attack could have been aimed at. However, the almost daily repetition of this behavior taught me that the dog was actually using an "excuse" to cover up the fact that it had mistakenly barked at its master. The moment when Bully paused became shorter and shorter, he lied more and more familiarly and in this respect more believable, but it happened that he sometimes got into places where there was nothing to bark at, for example in an empty corner of the courtyard. Then he stood there and barked furiously up the wall.

The behavior described could also be explained more simply, in terms of stimulus physiology. However, that there was a real intellectual achievement can be seen from the fact that Bully learned to use the same lie for a completely different fraud.

Like all our dogs, he had become law not to hunt our various poultry. Nevertheless, it annoyed him when our chickens were busy with the remains of his meal at his food bowl. But even then he did not dare to seriously hunt her, or rather, he did not dare to admit that he did it. He fell, barking grimly, among the hens, who screeched and scattered, but instead of chasing a bird or even snapping at it, he ran on barking in the direction he had taken. Even so, he often came to places where there was absolutely nothing to bark at. Because his cunning did not go so far that he would have chosen a believable Belobject located in the direction behind the chickens with wise foresight.

The dizziness of my Stasi dog was different. It is well known that many dogs are not only complacent, but also like to be pityed. If they gain an advantage, they learn surprisingly quickly to influence the compassionate person in a certain sense. On a long bike tour in Poznan, the Stasi had developed a small tendinitis on the left foreleg as a result of overexertion. Since she limped considerably, instead of cycling, I had to walk for a few days. I also spared her later and immediately drove slowly when I noticed that she was getting tired or even starting to lame. The cunning beast soon saw through this: after a short time it began to limp when I drove in a direction that was uncomfortable for it. If I cycled from my accommodation to the reserve hospital or even to the ambulance in another hospital, where she had to guard my bike for hours in an uncomfortable place, then she limped so poorly that I was reproached on the street. On the other hand, if I drove to the military riding school, where a ride lured into the countryside, the suffering was gone. Most transparent, however, was the dizziness on a Saturday off duty. In the morning, when on duty, the poor animal could hardly follow the bike even at the slowest pace; In the afternoon, when I drove the sixteen kilometers to Lake Ketscher at a rapid pace, the Stasi did not run after the bike, but dashed ahead at a sharp gallop on the path that was well known to her. And on Monday she limped again.

Konrad Lorenz