Madison the Cat lived a short life, but it was full of love.

Since the beginning of human history, we humans have anthropomorphized non-human animals. That is, we often attribute human characteristics to non-human animals.

Our folklore is rife with examples of attributing human qualities to animals also. Let’s take a look at some examples: 

• Lions are majestic. We call them the “king of the jungle.” It may be a small point, however, lions are rarely found in jungles – rather their habitat is the savannahs of Africa. Tigers, who live in jungles, are larger and arguably just as majestic, but are on the verge of extinction in their natural habitat. 

• Dogs are referred to as our best friends. Any dog owner will tell you that.  The wolf, however, from which all dogs are descended is considered the “Big Bad Wolf,” which we have nearly exterminated to extinction and are only now beginning to see the importance of wolves in keeping the balance of nature.  

• Also in the canine family, we have the fox and the coyote. We have the “wiley coyote” and the “crafty fox.” Many people see the fox as cute and adorable, but the coyote is seen as a menace and a pest. Yet both are skilled carnivores and hunt the same prey for the most part. 

If you’re a pet owner like me, you take anthropomorphizing to the next level. Scientific data suggests that dogs can learn up to 90 or so words and phrases. Cats may only understand 25 to 35 words. 

A dog may follow a few basic commands. A cat may or may not understand those commands, but we will never know, since they are unlikely to follow them. If a dog is man’s best friend, we are more often than not our cat’s loyal servants. 

I have been known to have long, wordy conversations with our cat, Madison. On an emotional level, I am convinced she understood every word, even if she did whatever she chose. For example, like most cats, she did not take medicine well and would run and hide when she thought it was medicine time. So, my wife and I have been known to whisper or even text her when her meds were ready so as not to have her running and hiding under the bed. 

Sadly, Maddie had a variety of health issues that destined her for a short life despite the best care we and our vet could provide her. Her life might have been short, but it was filled with love both given and received. 

You don’t get more anthropomorphizing than that. 

John Riolo of Moss Creek teaches graduate research online at Walden University.