Dogs seem almost biologically incapable of hiding their inner moods – shuffling, snuffling, tail-wagging clues to contentment, nervousness or sheer, unadorned joy. Despite what the famous painting might want to tell you, dogs would be terrible poker players. We pick up their cues all too easily.
Cats also have sophisticated body language – their moods are signalled through twitching tails, ruffled fur, and the position of ears and whiskers. A purr usually (but not always) signals friendliness or contentment. They’re a usually reliable method of working out if the cat is in friendly mode or best left alone.
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While we can reasonably be sure of a dog’s bond with us, despite the thousands of years domesticated cats have kept us company, they still suffer something of a bad PR image. The independence that many see as a bonus is seen by others as aloofness or selfishness. Their detractors claim they only really show affection when a food bowl is empty.
Cat owners will claim this is all nonsense, of course, and that their bond with their cat is as strong as any dog owner’s. But why does this image of the aloof, unfriendly cat remain? And is there any truth to it?