Cats sometimes show a wild feral side that makes you wonder: Are cats really happy about being domestic animals? Which, by the way, is a question we might raise about ourselves; a question raised by Hassidic thought.

Cats and Genetics

Scientists have looked at the common domesticated cat and discovered something interesting. What they found was that the cats are genetically different from cats in the wild, such as tigers. The video explains that, “the nervous system of domestic cats are richer in neural crest-related genes associated with pathways related to synaptic circuitry and contextual clues related to rewards.” In many ways, these domesticated animals are hard-wired to be dependent on humans. At least much more so than their wild tiger cousins.

Lessons for us

What can we learn from this interesting fact? Well, cats seems to have two parts to them. First, they are connected to the wild. However, they are also connected to people. So too, we have different aspects to us. We have a physical part of us. That part is connected to this world and wants physical goods. For example, to eat good food and enjoy wealth. In Hebrew, this called the “nefesh behamis”, or animal soul.

Spiritual part

But we also have another part to us. We have a spiritual side. This desires higher goods and to connect with God. The spiritual part knows that the physical world is only temporary. It also knows that there are much better spiritual goods than say, the pursuit of wealth. Our spiritual part strives to connect with God. In Hebrew, this part is known as the “nefesh elokis” or divine soul.

Of course, this creates a tension as we are physical people. We naturally want physical good. But our spiritual side knows that we really want to connect with the Divine.

The example of the cats teaches us a lot. So, do we give in and enjoy the physical world, or do we strive for spirituality and connection with God?