Web icon, animal adored by the French, the cat fascinates as much as it disconcerts. Lighting with the behaviorist Claude Béata.
Playful but unpredictable, affectionate but solitary: cats are an enigma, a mystery. In ancient Egypt, they were made gods. In the Middle Ages, they were slaughtered like witches. Today, the cat reigns over social networks and is the most common pet in France. But it continues to be misunderstood: a dissonance that the veterinarian Claude Béata wanted to combat. A specialist in behavioral medicine, he strives to highlight animal psychiatry at a time when we are rethinking our relationship to living things more than ever.
On video, Jennifer Garner’s failed video demonstration and her cat carrier hoodie
In his new book, Madness of Cats, we learn that the latter can be affected, in extreme cases, by forms of schizophrenia or bipolarity. But also why they attack without warning the sofa or our feet. An enlightening book to better understand them and build a relationship with them in which we too have everything to gain.
Madame Figaro. – Why did you want to devote a book to the “madness” of cats?
Claude Beata. – In France, they are 15 million, about double the number of dogs. So we are seeing more cases, and I wanted to make an appeal not to leave these cats in distress. This is most often manifested by inhibition: they will move less, will grow or lose hair. However, cats have the rather negative reputation of being autonomous and of not needing much care. What is wrong.
Why are they so popular today?
Already, because they are beautiful: the very round side, with big eyes… These are the recipes of the mammalian world to move people, and kittens are past masters in the art of making you want to be taken care of. them. Dogs, meanwhile, suffer from media annoyances: with the law on dangerous dogs, certain breeds are singled out. Then, we live in smaller accommodation, and we are in a country where we can sometimes go away for two or three days at the weekend: it’s easier with a cat…
Animal welfare has long been taken into account: among farmers, for example, each animal was called by its name before intensive farming distorted many things.
Not all cats are mentally ill. But why do we often say that they are crazy?
Because we understand them less well than dogs, with whom we share a social structure: like us, they have the notion of hierarchy, and they will maintain a relationship with the human on whom they depend, even if this this is going badly. With a cat, relationships are “in addition”. We talk about attachment ties: they can be very strong, but are never mandatory. If a relationship does not suit the cat, he can give it up completely. But it is this fragility that makes the price of the link that we establish with them.
What do you say to those who believe that animal psychiatry is a useless luxury?
I have a philosopher and veterinarian friend, Philippe Devienne, who responds with a pirouette: “I’m not interested in knowing if animals suffer. I take care of their suffering.” For us, suffering is obvious, objective, we see it every day and our job is to alleviate it. Cats with mental disorders are at risk of being abandoned or euthanized. It is therefore a discipline that can save them and improve the lives of those responsible for them. Of course, animal psychoanalysis is the hallmark of a successful society. But animal welfare has long been taken into account: among farmers, for example, each animal was called by its name before intensive farming distorted many things. Two years ago, the National Health Security Agency gave this definition: “A positive mental and physical state linked to the satisfaction of the physiological and behavioral needs, as well as the expectations of the animal.” It is a definition that proves that the representation that we have of the latter, of his consciousness and of his position, has changed. He is no longer an object, but a subject of his world.
How can we better understand cats?
As they are very different from us, they force us to shift our focus, to change our way of thinking. For example, we have often resorted to punishment with animals, although fortunately this is less and less the case. With the cat, it never worked. This is due to its dual nature of predator and prey. The cat needs to hunt, but it is also a vulnerable being, which forces it to be very suspicious. If we mistreat him, or raise our voice, he will distance himself since his well-being does not depend on us. We must therefore accept that we cannot force it.
What can we learn from them?
Our love of cats says our change of values in an increasingly stressful society. We need this contact, the affection they bring. The anxiolytic properties of pets have been demonstrated: in some cases, it is better to stroke a cat than to take a Tranxene. They can also teach us to seek harmony, which they manifest when they purr. And teach us a certain idea of self-respect and respect for others: a cat that comes on your lap means that it is comfortable, but that is no reason to fiddle with it. People are therefore surprised when they pet it but it goes away, or it starts biting. Cats don’t necessarily crave what we crave. Basically, they give us a lesson in tolerance and otherness.