Posted by: kathryngraves | January 28, 2009

Animals and People

If you’ve read my “About” page, you know I have a B.A. in Psychology. My great fascination is with behavior. Learning why people and animals do what they do intrigues me. I also loved my classes on theories of learning and behavior modification. I know the latter has gone out of vogue, but I believe the idea still has merit. My senior research project was an experiment in which I taught a behavior to an animal that was not natural for the animal. I chose guinea pigs and taught them to climb up stairs and then slide down a slide. While it was an academic exercise, it taught me much about how behavior can be modified.

Some time later I became a parent. My world turned inside out and the topic of behavior hovered over every conversation with other young moms. Why did our little angels do such dastardly things? We assumed, correctly, that it had to do with their in-born sin nature. But the task was to change the behaviors we deemed inappropriate. This was when I discovered a real-life value for my academic experiment.

The next addition to our family was a cat. The children delighted in pulling his ears and tail and chasing him around the house. No wonder he developed a love for the darkest corner of my bedroom closet! Watching the interaction of the cat and our boys led to the realization that he wasn’t so different from them. He had a personality and reasons for some things he did, but others remained a complete mystery to me.

Jesus compared people to sheep. That seems nice in our urban world. However, when our boys were in elementary school we lived in a rural town where they were encouraged to join 4-H. The next thing we knew, we were the proud parents of two lambs. Previously, when I thought about lambs, the word small came to mind. I found out a lamb could be almost as tall as my fourth grade son. And quite ornery. They really seemed more like billy-goats to me. If we didn’t keep the food put up, they’d get into it. When we wanted them to run for exercise, they wouldn’t, and when we wanted them to stay still, they ran. It dawned on me that Jesus wasn’t being so kind when he compared us to lambs. Just realistic. It was an easy analogy for his contemporary listeners to understand.

An easy analogy for me to understand is that people are like cats. And Jesus uses whatever is easiest for us to understand when he teaches spiritual lessons. That’s why He’s shown me so much about myself through the years from watching the various cats I’ve owned. The latest one was Theodore. I learned so much from him, I’m writing it into a book. A snippet from that was published by and can be accessed in their archives. It is titled, “Shower Curtain Security” and appeared as a devotional.

More later as the situation develops,



  1. Welcome back! I didn’t know you were interested in Behavior Mod. But I should have guessed with your degree in Psychology. I really like your analogy comparing people with cats. Sounds like a great idea for a devotional book to me! šŸ™‚

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