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Nonhuman empathy

F. Frank LeFever flefever at ix.netcom.com
Sun Feb 14 22:59:59 EST 1999

In <7a1r9e$ifd$1 at fremont.ohsu.edu> Matt Jones <jonesmat at ohsu.edu>
>In article <36C4373F.A466D92D at mich.com> Michael Edelman, mje at mich.com

- - - - - - - - - - - - -(snip) - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

>>As for something like jealosy- now you're in an area that's much
harder to
>>support. Do cats get jealous? I'm not sure how you could divine that.
>Do people get jealous? I'm not sure how you could divine that. Oh, I
>know. You look at their behavior and infer an internal state. When my
>suddenly starts pissing on the furniture the day after I bring home my
>newborn daughter, I attribute it to jealousy.

- - - - - - - - - -(snip) - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It's hard to know from human verbal behavior whether they are
experiencing jealously, given that vast numbers who routinely fail to
differentiate between "jealousy" and "envy"...

(A vulgar error that bothers me almost as much as "anxious" being used
when "eager" is intended...)

As for cats: if I infer correctly, YOU are inferring that the cat is
"pissed" at you (and implying so in your account of this to us).  Tbis
shows a lack of understanding of cat behavior.  Male cats spray things
"to" mark their territory. I put "to" in quotation marks, because we do
not know that the cat conceives of the act as having this utility and
intended purpose.  Although it has this result, notifying other male
cats that the territory is already occupied, perhaps advertising the
presence of a real stud to female cats, etc., my hunch is that it
simply mmakes the cat more comfortable and relaxed to have his own
familiar odor around him.

The strange odor of the new guest, and perhaps heightened NEED to feel
comfortable (i.e. because getting nervous with all the strange sounds,
odors, activity, etc.) may make renewal of his own odor a valuable
source of relaxation at this time.

Of course, if your cat is a FEMALE cat--Hmmmm...!

n.b.: I was lucky enough to studfy under T.C. Schneirla and his
students, Jay Rosenblatt, Ethel Tobach, and Daniel Lehrman (many many
years ago).  Their life-long work was (and still is, for two still
alive: Jay and Ethel) to analyse the earliest beginnings of
"instinctual" behavior to find explanations that did not require an ad
hoc resort to EITHER "inborn programming" OR "thinking purposefully".

F. Frank LeFever, Ph.D.
New York Neuropsychology Group

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