There could easily be unnecessary false disagreement if I were to insist on using human emotive terminology in such a discussion as this. These sorts of terms are major no-nos in behavioral science. I have immense respect for the field and I find your insights and expertise to be very interesting. I also won’t say that I disagree with you about what cats and other species of animals think or feel, because I really don’t think that I do. I think that there are major differences between the way that humans think and the way that cats think, or the ways that any other species think or don’t think, and there are some similarities as well. This makes sense because we are different species and yet we are both mammals.
I see and applaud your point about the danger that false perceptions about certain animal behaviors can lead to a misinformed punishing of the animal. Such punishment is useless and cruel, and cats don’t get the intended point. This is a danger that I would like to see remedied.
I think there is also a danger, though, that some people write off the value or significance of other animal species on the basis of their not possessing certain human qualities. This is not so different from the way in which people of divergent cultures often write one another off on the basis of their subtle cultural differences. Invariably, many people write off all other animal species, quite entirely, as nothing more than rocks or trees. Other mammals are not mere automata, and from the perpective of the whole of nature mammals such as cats have more in common with us than they have different.
I think that many people need to identify in some way with something in order to nurture and care for it. I also think this is the case with animals. Jane Goodall began naming her primate subjects before their “human” qualities were understood as such. When she started this practice decades ago, she was regarded as rather kooky for doing so. She has also been regarded as “kooky” for naming and talking to trees and rocks. Perhaps more rightly so, but I think there is some value in paying homage to the fact that human nature is not particularly more special than any of the rest of nature. Cat feelings may not be identical to our own, but it only makes sense that they do have some sorts of feelings.