But we won't be hearing counsel for the defence producing it in mitigation for juvenile misdemeanours or parental neglect any time soon; this affliction is, so far at least, confined to the feline species.
Cats that pester for food could be suffering from psychological condition.
Cat owners see it as a sign of hunger and affection — their pet miaowing and rubbing against their ankles as dinner time approaches. But according to a group of vets, it is a sign of a creature whose obsession with food has driven it to the edge of insanity.Well I never! To think that all this time, advertisers have been shamelessly exploiting cats suffering from mental illness, from the tabbies 'making haste' for a well-known brand of biscuits to the immaculately-groomed Burmese shamelessly trading overt displays of affection in exchange for a small but perfectly-formed terrine.
According to the researchers, who set out their findings in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, other symptoms can include “food-related aggressiveness” — taking food from other cats’ bowls — and “context-specific excessive appetite” — jumping on the table to eat from the owner’s plate.Now, I'm no expert - and I'd certainly welcome comments from cat-owners on this - but isn't that what you'd expect from what is, after all, a predatory mammal, unless it had been trained otherwise? Small wonder, then, that researchers found no physical reason for the behaviour and concluded the cause must be psychological.
They improved the cat’s behaviour by feeding and stroking it only at certain times of day, and ignoring it at other times.Well that should have thoroughly confused the poor thing! But the whole thing really boils down to a bit of common sense: if you occasionally feed your cat from your plate, it will come to expect that pestering will bring a reward. It's not exactly rocket science but it's a principle some pet-owners presumably fail to grasp - and parents, for that matter.
Now, I can't claim to be an expert - the only cats I know well are nice-but-dim twins whose parents were brother and sister (owned by kindly but innocent God-fearing folk who were more than a little surprised and shocked to find a litter on their hands) and are possibly not the best examples of feline normality - but all this looks alarmingly like something we've seen at work with humans.
So will the traffic run the other way too, I wonder? Will some child psychologist pick this study up and run with it, slap on a snappy collection of initials and rush it into the armoury of the apologists for inadequate human parenting? Given the industry that has sprung up around ADHD and the way childhood obesity dominates the news, I'd say it's a dead cert.
Any bets on how long it is before Ambush Predator is quoting a mother's belligerent protest: "It's not my fault he weighs fourteen stone; he's got PAFB"?