Animal Psychology: Because Kindness Isn’t Just For Humans

“Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall all be saved.” ~Dr. Jane Goodall. As you read that quote think about it as it pertains to both humans and animals and both of us together as a whole. How many of us try and understand an animal’s interactions with the world and what each action means? Ever look at your dog or cat and wonder what they are thinking? Do you ever wish they could talk to you and tell you how they are feeling? Recently, I have been thinking about animal psychology and what certain actions that are done with humans means.

A certain handsome cat in my life these days is Huck, a cat about 10 weeks old which was brought home to us recently. I have been observing his behavior with me and have been trying to understand what certain actions mean. For example, he cozies up to me and always falls asleep in my lap while holding my hand with his small paw. Then he squeezes it, ever so gently, and if I remove my hand away from him, he grabs it back. Think about that for a second: this cat grabs my hand and squeezes it, just like we held hands with our parents as kids.

Another time, before one of his traditional naps on me, he nuzzled me and pushed his little nose into my cheek, as he was spread over my chest as I laid on my back. He began squirming just a little bit as he tried to find that perfect spot to take a snooze. He ended up in the middle of my stomach, his head facing me, closed his eyes, and reached one paw up to be perfectly rested on my heart.

Both these actions Huck has made with me have not only completely amazed me but has made me really curious about what it means. In my opinion a big part has to do with his age. He’s still young and it’s almost as if he’s treating me like I am his mother who is caring for him. Just as infants need to be close to their mommy, know they are there to protect them, Huck needed to hold a part of me close to him for comfort and security. Similarly to his action of holding my hand or a single finger and squeezing it, I recall as a child, my having to hold the handle of my little tiny teddy bear cup. Something that for whatever reason, gave me comfort, something that was like holding a single finger of my mom’s or dad’s hand. For reasons we don’t know, Huck needed to feel that special connection like with a mother. Interestingly, I am the only one he does this with and whenever he feels it is time for one of his naps, he knows that I am here, ready to be his snuggly pillow.

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