Are you a cat owner? Was there something about your cat when you picked her out that drew you to her? I own a cat named Pepper that I picked out of a litter when she wasn't quite 24 hours old. I know, what can you tell about a little kitten who doesn't even have her eyes open. I'm not really sure, but whatever it was that made me pick Pepper, it worked correctly.
There are several studies that have been done to test if there's a relationship between cats and their owners' interactions with other humans. Specifically, does owning a cat ellicit compassion towards animals and then translate into being more compassionate toward fellow humans. An Australian study conducted at Central Queensland University proved such a link does exist.
The University of Pennsylvania looked at another aspect of this - whether having a pet as a child would make one more compassionate towards both animals and humans as adults. The results showed that children who had strong relationships with their cats or dogs as children had more humane attitudes toward animals and humans as adults. It also showed children who had pets growing up and had strong relationships with them, developed stronger relationships with people in adulthood.
Why is it that cats, in particular, that brings out our compassion? I know as a cat owner, that I can tell what Pepper is saying by the tone of her voice, her facial expressions and her posture. It's like having an infant that can't speak, but as you get to know her, you start to understand her moods and needs. Developing this sense of your pet's needs and moods could very well allow you to better "read" others as adults.
There's something about cats and puppies that makes us want to nurture them. They're soft, small, cuddly and provide love. They bring forth compassion in us naturally. Studies have proven this is true more for women, maybe because of the innate maternal instinct inside. Although men who had strong relationships with their dogs or cats as children showed more compassion in future relationships than those who didn't have pets. Whatever it is, the compassion shown towards animals does translate into showing more compassion toward our fellow human beings, which is a positive thing.
Most of these research studies utilized cats and their owners since cats can still be picked up and loved even as adults. For those who have never considered cats to bring any value to us or society in general, you may want to reconsider. They may just be helping us to treat each other a little better.
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