Change a letter from yesterday’s word and you get today’s…
It was really a sight to see when Judy, the stray cat that came to us pregnant, gave birth to her kittens. She was still a kitten herself, but she knew when it was time to have them, and she knew just what to do to give birth to them, clean them up, and, when she was finished, how to get them to nurse and how to stimulate their bowels. Nobody had to show her what to do.
About a week after the birth, she developed mastitis and we had to take her to the vet. The only way we could get her in the carrier was to put the five babies in there with her, and when we got her to the vet she watched the vet like a hawk while he checked the kittens for cleft palates. She knew, these are my babies, and you’d better damn well be careful with then, or you’ll have to answer to me.
A couple of months later, we had her spayed, which is the responsible thing to do. We were so worried that she wouldn’t remember her kittens. When she got home, she remembered them, and had them all nursing before long.
Nobody taught her how to have kittens or how to care for them after they were born. It was innate: she just knew how to mother those kittens.
As I mentioned last week, Pepper, who was about Judy’s age, saw Tuffy when the kittens emerged from the back bedroom, and decided to "adopt" her. Pepper was like a nanny to Tuffy. Again, no one told Pepper how to do that. She just knew.
Then there was Lucy. One Saturday night she was in the kitchen howling. We just thought she was being Siamese (she was half Siamese), but when we went to check, we could see that Amy, one of our newer cats, had gotten into the space between the dishwasher and the cabinet it was attached to and was stuck. She didn’t stop being noisy until Amy was free. She knew that Amy was stuck and that she’d need our help to get free.
Lucy also helped us raise two kittens that we adopted, not knowing that they hadn’t been weaned. We fed them (gave them a bottle, anyway) and Lucy took care of the cleanup. She knew what she had to do and did it.
These are all examples of innate behavior. None of these cats had been taught any of these difficult tasks: they were born knowing how to do them.
What sort of behaviors do humans have that are innate?