10 thoughts on “The Sunday Cat Shows Cats have moral emotions

  1. Is it? But the cat isn’t in any danger; the man is brisk but not angry or threatening.

    From Paul Griffiths recent article on situated emotions:

    The situated perspective on emotions identifies emotions like guilt and shame in a way that leaves open the extent to which they involve conceptual thought. The question becomes whether the social transaction corresponding to the emotion can occur in the absence of the appropriate conceptual thoughts. … Parkinson (1999) further supports the view that it is not necessary to engage in thoughts of moral transgression in order to feel guilty, by documenting instances of guilt generated by unwarranted accusations from relevant others. These forms of guilt can be explained from a transactionalist perspective if guilt is a form of skillful social engagement aimed at reconciliation…Guilt is often a good strategy to meet this need, because it conveys a message of sympathetic suffering and the intention to avoid future involvement in harmful events affecting the accuser. (My stress.)

    In fact, looks close to fearful ones do convey a sense that one did something bad and also a recognition these things bring bad things to oneself.

  2. (A note on the video- the man not only isn’t using a harsh tone, he’s also not saying harsh words, really- he says something like (going from memory) “Oh, what a nightmare- who knocked over the sprouts? Was it you? No, not you? Maybe you (to the second cat)? Was it you who knocked over the sprouts?”

    My cat likes to fight, and we try to discourage him, as he gets too rough. It’s clear when he wants to fight, and we will look at him directly and tell him “no!” and sometimes shake a finger at him. He’ll look up with the most sad face and let out a pathetic cry, “blaaahhh!” that I take to mean something like, “but I want to fight! (but I know I’ll get in trouble if I do”) I don’t know that it’s guilt or shame- it’s a bit like a kid who knows he’ll get in trouble and so is scared- so I’m hesitant to say it’s a “moral” emotion, properly speaking, but it is easy to see how those sorts of emotions could, in the right setting, become moral ones.

  3. Matt, This may be superfluous advice:
    I’ve gotten our cats “Da Bird Feather Teaser” through Amazon. If you swing it about, it allows for lots of agressive leaping and jumping. Our vet also says our indoor cats are in much better physical shape since they started on it. The leaping and pouncing gives them muscle tone.

    The only problem is that they really, really love it and would be thrilled to go for 4 hours. So one definitely needs to start with limits firmly in mind. Perhaps an hour every other day? shared among two?

  4. Matt, also thanks for the translation. It is Russian? I do think the first cat is quite happy to sell out the other one. I hear “Not me!” in the initial meow. And then there’s all the looking over at the other one.

  5. Kathryn, it is amazing. I wonder if the cat lives in the zoo or showplace. That would suggest quite a background.

  6. Hi JJ- yes, it’s Russian in the video. I am always happy to find Russian in videos spoken to animals or small children as they I can usually understand it.
    Our cat does like to chase a feather (usually a peacock feather, as the “eye” makes a great target) but also likes to fight, mostly with me. I think it’s a test to see who is the dominant male in the house. Thankfully, while he has claws, I can use a spray bottle, so I win in the end.

  7. Hi, your blog is nice, i have a hompage about cats and kitten in germany, top on the left, is a botton “english” there you can read it in english.

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