Nov 242017

When you think of the sort of pet that people can be truly emotionally attached to, chances are *really* good you’ll think of either “cat” or “dog.” Any species other than those two, at least in the US, will either be far fewer in number or far less likely to be something you really bond with. A goldfish, after all, is more likely to be something more of a decoration than an entity you empathize with.

Me, I’ve had cats, dogs, ferrets. Bonded with all, mourned those who’ve died or left. I also had some Triops, some big brine shrimp sorta prehistoric monster critters; when they died, it was a disappointment, but not mournful. I’ve never had pet bunnies or sheep, but I’ve met such critters. Cute enough, but… meh. No connection. Why not? Because there was “nothing behind the eyes,” one might say. And… because bunnies and sheep are quite different from humans. They do not hunt. They have no “killer instinct.” They are… different from us.

Look at the natural world: the creatures we think of as being “smart” or ‘high up on the evolutionary ladder” tend to be vicious killers. Chimpanzees? Sure, they’re cute (-ish) when they’re young, but as adults they’re 600-pound murder machines who will rip your limbs, face and nads off. Dolphins? Sure, Flipper looks cute, but they will murder other species of dolphins apparently for fun. Orcas? OK, the alternate name of “killer whale” kinds gives it away, but they’re well known to play with their food. And their food tends to cute cute, fluffy-bunny seals.

Of course, “smart” isn’t exclusively the province of predators. Elephants are well known to be quite smart, with complex emotions. But… you tick off an elephant, and they turn into *giant* murder machines. They might not eat you, but they’ll kill you, and not purely for defense. They will attack other creatures simply because they’re ticked off.

So… being killers seems to correlate with making good pets… and with making them understandable. Of course it’s not a 100% match; go head and snuggle up with a shark if you want, won’t get you anywhere.

 Posted by at 7:04 pm
  • Michel Van

    I wonder, how much of the “Cuteness” factor is part of domestication process ?
    It make perfect sense with dogs see how big bad Wolf, became a small cute Pug…
    But on cats that not worked like on dogs, they still have same basic body form.
    Interesting here is size factor ! what we consider as Cute dog has similarly size of cat

    Desmond Morris once notice that Cat have size of new born human Baby
    and that make in Human brain “click” to be thoughtful and lovingly toward cats.
    (that’s for normal Humans, the one with cruelty to animals end up mostly as serial killers)

    And for Cats themselves ?
    If you enlarge a Domestic cat to size of Siberian Tiger (350 cm/140 in and 300 kg/660 lb.)
    it will not consider you as “Heat-source/Foot provider/doctor/litter box cleaner”
    They consider you as FOOD…

  • Brianna

    Rabbits are actually more interesting as pets than you’d think. I have a friend who loves rabbits. Her rabbit had a bell that she would grip in her teeth and ring for treats, and I think there were one or two other tricks as well. She would also lick you sometimes.