11/12/2019 0 Comments
On animals and culture
This follows on from the post a few days ago on species and persons, about how most cats are just cats, whereas your own cat becomes something more like a person, a friend and colleague as Jan Morris says about her cat Ibsen, and to the cat perhaps their own people become something more than just human beings. We don't really know how much animals have their own different cultures from one rabbit warren to another for instance, or what it means for songbirds and whales to have different dialects, but I'm interested in how differently animals learn to live when they live with people. I read an anthropologist's article about living with rabbits in order to study their culture, the structures of relationship between individual rabbits and what this meant for group rabbit culture. But I think she was quite conscious that this culture was also a rabbit-human culture, since these were rabbits that lived in her house and had a relationship with her. We had a rabbit once who lived in our house and since it was just one rabbit the only culture it had was one it shared with us, and it was a very different rabbit than rabbits I've known as pets that live outside the house, in an outdoors enclosure with one or more other rabbits, let alone rabbits who live in the wild. And my first pet hen I had as a child I kept at first as a single hen, until the neighbours got hens, so she joined the flock of people and cats she found in our household, working out a hybrid culture that could make sense of quite different instincts and behaviours. She was quite assertive about her place at the top of the pecking order. In the mornings she would go round all the beds shooing the cats off them, often laying an egg in the warm hollow where a cat had been. Cats are really the strangest of all, choosing to be with people rather than other cats, behaving like kittens into adulthood, working out codes for having doors opened or laps provided, and meowing to people when meow isn't something cats apparently ever say to other cats.
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