Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Inside the Mind of a Cat on Netflix: Let’s watch and review the movie and then talk more about the brain and behavior of cats.
Inside the Mind of a Cat
What is it About?
This one-hour Netflix documentary about cats is also a very effective feel-good movie, and is strongly recommended if you are interested in the mind of cats or animals in general.
Watch Inside the Mind of a Cat—Movie Trailer:
Next, I will review some topics the movie covered. These themes are a great starting point for further scientific discussion about cats. I added some resources and videos below, so if you want to know more after watching the film (very recommended), check them out and let’s talk about them in the comments.
The natural starting point of the documentary (and of this post as well) is cat physiology: the flexibility of cats and their perfect design as predators. Doesn’t it feel remarkable to know you have such an impressive predator in your own home?
Watch this short video to know more:
Cat Evolution and History with Humans
The most known example of cats coexisting with humans is in Ancient Egypt. However, as the movie mentions, evidence suggests that cats used to live with humans since a much earlier period. A human tomb with (a possible pet) cat was found in Cyprus, dated to be around 9500-year-old.
Here’s a more thorough review of the history of cats:
As mentioned above, the Netflix movie briefly reviews the evolution and history of cats. From the ancient world, through the medieval persecution of witches and their cats, to the current cat craze on the internet. It also shows the role and view of cats in different places nowadays, briefly visiting Cat Cafés in Japan and meet mousers in the distilleries of Scotland.
Check this video out:
A point that I found particularly fascinating was cultural differences between cats. No, cats don’t have their own culture, but their humans do. And these cultures lead to different ways of raising a pet, which in turn affects the brain of the cat and leads to behavioral differences between cats in different cultures. For instance, exclusively indoor cats may be less independent and secure when meeting new people, compared to indoor/outdoor cats. While the former is more common in Japan, the latter is common in the US.
This difference in cat behavior due to housing conditions can also be relevant if your cat went missing, as you can see here.
Inside the Cat’s Mind
People know much more about dogs’ cognition and behavior than about cats. In fact, the research on cat cognition is significantly lagging behind dog research. As a result, people may think of cats as more difficult to read and even asocial. The documentary comes to fill in this knowledge gap.
The movie explains the basis of cat body language and communication, things that are definitely important for people who adopt a cat for the first time. For instance, cats are both predators and prey, and as prey they can be scared of certain things, such as objects reaching from above (which for them can be large predatory birds). For this reason, it’s better to approach a cat from a lower position, and offer them your hand to sniff instead, like cats do with each other.
Watch this for more:
As a neuroscientist who is also truly interested in the animal brain and comparative psychology, this was my favorite part of the Netflix movie. I liked it how it was evidence-based and did not resort to personification as some other documentaries, and especially creators, do, for marketing reasons (yes, I’m talking about the people who think their dog can talk by randomly pressing buttons).
Here, for instance, Professor Atsuko Saito talks about her research in cats, that shows that they can recognize their own name, and possibly also the names of cohabiting cats:
Train your Cat
The documentary also mentions the importance of training to keep your cat healthy, both physically and mentally. For instance, it mentions the use of activity feeders instead of just feeding from a bowl. It doesn’t focus enough on the importance of play, though, and this is something you should definitely pay attention to if you own a cat. You can check out my preferred cat toys on Amazon or read more about them here.
If, in addition, you want to train your cat to do tricks, it is absolutely possible. Cats, like us, learn to associate things using classical conditioning. For instance, if when a bell rings the cat gets a treat, and if it happens several times, the cat learns to expect the food just by hearing the bell. Like us, cats can also associate between their own behavior and its consequences in the environment. This is instrumental (or operant) conditioning. Thus, if a cat lifts her paw after a command and then gets a treat, she learns to lift her paws more often following that command. And here’s a trick!
You can use clicker training to teach your cat (other pets will also do) to do tricks or learn needful behaviors, such as getting to like their carrier or cat box.
Do Cats Lover Their Owners?
Now to the most interesting question of this review: Do cats love their owners?
‘Love’ is a really big word, and we might never get an answer. However, research shows that cats definitely prefer their owners over many things, such as random people, toys and even food. You can read more about cats and their relationships with their humans here.
Want to Know More?
Have you watched Inside the Mind of a Cat on Netflix? Great. If any of these topics interest you, let me know in the comments below. I’d love to dig in a bit deeper on the topic you want in future posts.
In the meanwhile, if you need more cat videos or cat tips, read my blog post here and also here.
Magenta and Rocky send their love!