Recently, there has been a report from Raleigh, NC that a cat has managed to befriend a deer through a window. For those who are curious, a man named Johnnie Sexton has a pair of American shorthairs, which enjoy looking out of the windows of their home. One day, when a deer chose to look in, one of the two cats named Vance chose to respond, thus resulting in what looked a lot like amicable interaction between the two animals. Sexton managed to capture much of the process on video, which has been met with a fair amount of positivity from a wide range of people on the Internet.
What Is an Interspecies Friendship?
Interspecies friendships are not exactly a novel phenomenon. However, they are still a poorly understood phenomenon, which is unsurprising when one considers how much remains to be investigated. For starters, it isn’t clear that interspecies friendships are interspecies friendships. Basically, humans tend to analyze interactions from a human perspective, which can be a serious problem when it comes to figuring out what an animal is thinking because our behaviors are by no means universal. As such, even when we see something that looks like friendship from a human perspective, it might not be so from the perspective of the animal participants.
Having said that, it is important to note that there is plenty of evidence to support the notion of animals forming friendships within their own species. For example, researchers have observed unrelated male chimpanzees cooperating with one another in a wide range of activities, which was followed by the survivor going into what looked a lot like mourning after the other had died. Likewise, similar bonds have been observed in species that range from baboons to dolphins. As for why this is the case, one potential answer is that friendship can improve the chances of a particular animal passing their genes on to future generations. After all, two animals in close cooperation are much more capable than a single animal on their own, meaning that they are more capable of overcoming the challenges in their way. Over time, this means that friendliness is selected for, thus making for animals that are more and more capable of forming such bonds.
In any case, just as how people have seen evidence of friendships within the same species, people have seen evidence of what seems like friendships between animals of different species. One excellent example would be the interaction between a tiger named Amur and a goat named Timur, the latter of which had initially been put in the tiger’s enclosure to serve as food. It is unknown why Amur chose to spare the goat, but some people have speculated that it might have been more interested in companionship than food in the initial encounter, which established the idea that Timur wasn’t food. However, the relationship wasn’t without its complications, as shown by the time when the tiger mauled the goat after the tiger had been poked by the goat with his horns for hours. Moving on, another excellent example would be observed cases of badgers and coyotes cooperating to hunt ground squirrels, which is particularly curious because badgers are often hunted by coyotes. In any case, when these two species cooperate, the coyotes will initiate by showing friendly behaviors, to which the badgers will respond even though badgers don’t behave in such a manner even when interacting with other badgers. Afterwards, once both parties have cooperated, there have even been sightings of them resting in close proximity, which is definitely unusual to say the least considering the normal relationship between the two species.
Having said that, the most common example of interspecies friendships would be those between humans and our domesticated animals. For instance, it is very common for dogs and dog owners to form powerful bonds, as shown by how the two parties tend to behave when they are reunited after a long separation. Similarly, humans have been known to form bonds of similar strength with cats, horses, and other domesticated species even if the signs of those bonds might not be the same. Besides this, human influence means that domesticated species can spend a lot of time with one another, thus making for more opportunities for interspecies friendships. In particular, it is worth mentioning how dogs and cats can be convinced to get along, which is very noticeable considering how their interactions can be quite hostile in the absence of human influence.
What Makes Interspecies Friendships Possible?
There are various theories on what make interspecies friendships possible. Indeed, there is no reason to think that there has to be a single explanation, seeing as how such relationships can take a wide range of forms between a wide range of species. For that matter, it is perfectly possible for there to be more than one factor at work.
One potential example would be mutualism, which is when one species interacts with another in a mutually beneficial manner. In this line of thinking, a series of mutualistic encounters can serve as the basis of a longer-lasting relationship. Certainly, mutualism can be observed in dog-dog owner relationships, seeing as how dogs receive care and companionship while dog owners receive companionship as well as other potential benefits depending on the dog’s exact role. Moving on, interspecies communication seems to play an important role in interspecies friendships as well. Curiously, this might mean that predator and prey species have a bit of an advantage when it comes to forming such relationships because they are already quite good at reading their counterpart’s communication. However, this is still very much a matter of speculation, meaning that interested individuals shouldn’t put too much trust in it. Besides this, interspecies friendships sometimes happen when one animal manages to trigger another animal’s protective instincts. In particular, people will be familiar with the stories of mothers adopting orphans, which is particularly interesting because learned behaviors at a young age are apparently capable of overriding instincts to a considerable extent.