Neko is not only the Japanese word for cat. It is also the name of my cat. I do consider Neko a friend. For many reasons. So I even learned to read his body language and communicate with him.
For example, whenever you see a cat stretching its tail in the shape of a question mark, it’s happy. And whenever a cat is wagging its tail, it is not happy. That is exact the opposite of what dogs are doing – which is one of the reasons, why dogs and cats don’t get along. It’s just a communication issue. Once the cat is happy, dog thinks, cat is angry. And once the dog is happy, cat thinks, dog is angry.
Anyway, I am also a rational person. So I tried to understand why I and many other people like cats. There must be more to it than just the fur. Some spiders have fur as well.
So what is it?
I checked some science and found what evolutionary biologists have been looking at for many years. There is a certain parasite living inside of all cats. These parasites and cats live in a co-evolutionary fashion. But in order to replicate, the parasite has to go from one cat to another. So it found a very intelligent way to do that: For example, if a mouse has been bitten by a cat but got away, if has been infected and it will transfer the parasite to its complete mouse-family.
Now here is the wonderful thing. Every infected mouse has less anxiety towards cats. As a matter of fact, these mice turn into risk-takers, even though it’s a dangerous mouse-life to like cats.
This parasite – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
“T. gondii-infected rodents show a number of behavioral changes beyond altered responses to cat odors. Rats infected with the parasite show increased levels of activity and decreased neophobic behavior. Similarly, infected mice show alterations in patterns of locomotion and exploratory behavior during experimental tests. These patterns include traveling greater distances, moving at higher speeds, accelerating for longer periods of time, and showing a decreased pause-time when placed in new arenas. Infected rodents have also been shown to have differences in traditional measures of anxiety, such as elevated plus mazes, open field arenas, and social interaction tests”
If you think about this long enough, you might ask yourself, what Taxoplasmosis is doing to humans. Scientists found answers: http://motherboard.vice.com/
These “toxos” are rewiring our brains to do something very dangerous – to like cats. Now I know well, that Neko can be dangerous as well. But this mechanism works for larger cats such as tigers and lions as well (my greatest hello goes to Siegfried and Roy, right here). And as we are getting used to like cats, we surround ourselves with them. There are even cafes, where you can have a coffee while cuddling a cat –https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Let’s spin that even further. I asked myself, why do cats and cat content dominate the internet? There has been vast statistical research on this matter and many people wrote articles on this.
And I have real-life evidence. To my wife – a famous German food-blogger – Neko serves as her “assistant” and has his own fan base. Last week, she opened a separate fan-page for him and Neko hit 300 fans in less than one week.
Here is my rational way to explain my special relationship to Neko.
I am infected. Probably I have these “toxos” in my brain and they rewired me to like cats and to waste time watching cat-content on the web. Visiting the SXSW conference in Austin I even (And I do not do that at all in general) waited in line with almost 500 people to get a picture with “Grumpycat” himself at the Mashable event venue.
This “toxo” parasite altered my perception. Probably. Otherwise I would consider how dangerous cats are in reality. CHECK THIS: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/
Some scientist might argue, that even the love I feel for my great wife is nothing but a cocktail of human chemicals traveling along the neurons and bloodstreams. That is rational. Yeah. But I don’t care. It’s love.
And as for Neko? Well. As with love, it doesn’t matter, whether the basics are scientific, rational or not. If it feels like friendship, looks like friendship. And if it is as furry and intelligent as he is. Then it is actually friendship. That is what Neko is. A friend.
And by the way, he is also the reason why humanity started the internet. Welcome to Neko’s world.
Join me in being Neko’s friend!