Do animals have a concept of gender?

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Neonriser
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Do animals have a concept of gender?

Post by Neonriser »

My sister says that cats identify themselves as they/them, and she also says that it's been proven by science.

Is she correct?
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Re: Do animals have a concept of gender?

Post by Cobra! »

I kind of think your sister is just making that up, but I think this is an interesting subject in general. There are studies about lionesses growing male character traits and start acting like males. I also recall reading an article about a dog owner noticing their male dog acting more masculine on some days than others. (Which I can't find rn)

So the idea of diverse genders in animals is a real thing, I don't know if they necessarily have a concept of it. I think most just go with their instincts.
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nights
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Re: Do animals have a concept of gender?

Post by nights »

semi-related to this but homosexual behavior is only routinely manifested in a handful of animals, including humans and bats. interestingly, the ways in which it's manifested in bats differs between bats in captivity and in the wild. this study is an interesting read into the subject. it comes to the conclusion that this behavior in bats must be a sort of "adaptive" trait, which means they're probably aware of their sex and what they're getting out of having sex. this leads me to believe that they don't have the same conception of gender as humans do in that regard.
Cobra! wrote: Tue Jun 07, 2022 3:34 pm I I also recall reading an article about a dog owner noticing their male dog acting more masculine on some days than others.
this sounds more like confirmation bias/the owner instilling their own conceptions of gender onto the dog than anything concrete, like op's sister's insinuation. if there's some sort of study to go along with this, i'd love to see it.
Last edited by nights on Wed Jun 08, 2022 2:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Do animals have a concept of gender?

Post by Cobra! »

nights wrote: Tue Jun 07, 2022 3:54 pm This sounds more like confirmation bias/the owner instilling their own conceptions of gender onto the dog than anything concrete or scientific, like op's sister's insinuation. if there's some sort of study to go along with this, i'd love to see it.
Yeah, I recall it basically was, which is why I never put in the effort to dig out the article. :p
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Re: Do animals have a concept of gender?

Post by Veezle »

Neonriser wrote: Tue Jun 07, 2022 12:47 pm My sister says that cats identify themselves as they/them, and she also says that it's been proven by science.

Is she correct?
I doubt cats know (or would really care) what pronouns even are, lol
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Re: Do animals have a concept of gender?

Post by Petite Plume »

That's an interesting and complex question, but I think, overall, the answer boils down to: no, they probably don't.

Gender as we experience it is a uniquely human concept. What it means to "be a girl" or to "be a boy" or to "be a woman" or to "feel as neither", etc. is a deeply social and cultural experience, and it varies from culture to culture. And we've had centuries to put layers and layers of meanings behind these categories!

It is highly unlikely that animals could have developed these exact same categories alongside of us (not to mention wanting to associate with it).

What animals do have for certain is instinct. And some of these instincts may vary depending on the animal's sexual anatomy : male and female animals usually act differently when it comes to mating season, or to take care of their offspring.
So it may be that animals have a sense of sex. Or it may be that they don't really feel anything about it unless a certain instinct kicks in.

Back when we were ape with less culture and more instincts, it's likely that we had instincts that varied depending on sexual and hormonal anatomy, and that it was the early basis for what would become our cultural concepts gender.


As for cats identifying as they/them, it would require for them to understand the concept of pronouns in our verbal languages, to understand the genderness associated with certain pronouns, to understand what these genders are, and to feel a need to identify with them. Again, it's very unlikely! But it's just as unlikely for them to identify as boys or girls, or to evenc are about that, so maybe that's what your sister meant.
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Re: Do animals have a concept of gender?

Post by nightwolf334 »

This is a pretty easy question to answer, but modern understanding of gender means people are using a lot of language to mean more than it means in the context of gender. Animals probably do not have a spectrum understanding of gender.

Their understanding of gender would be in the binary. Within this binary would be a selection of behaviours associated with 0, and another selection associated with 1. Meaning there is potential for a biologically female animal to assume the binary of a male and carry out those associated behaviours, but due to the lack of nuanced understanding of gender I would assume they would not choose those behaviours as a form of identity, but rather to bridge survival / social needs.

I think it is incredibly important to differentiate between when an animal has to make a decision for need out of discomfort, compared to when a human has the ability to make a decision in total comfort. In this instance the animal kingdom is not comfortable and it would be silly to assume that animals in the wild are making fashion statements with their gender identity.
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Re: Do animals have a concept of gender?

Post by juette »

even the strict male/female sex binary we humans use does not always really. work for animals. or even for humans for that matter
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Re: Do animals have a concept of gender?

Post by corvidia »

i think more cats should be nonbinary
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Re: Do animals have a concept of gender?

Post by Starfia »

That sounds similar to asking whether any particular species of animal has a concept of Zodiac signs. If some few members of animal species have grasped something about the difference between, say, a Taurus and a Libra specifically, I imagine they'll have to have succeeded in picking it up from humans. That would be remarkable but perhaps not impossible across all human past and future.

However, I could suppose that the occasional peahen might see another peahen strutting and opening her wings for whatever reason, and thinking something that might approximately be "hmm – they sort of seem like a peacock typically seems," perhaps internally tasting the feelings that happen to accompany that thought.

If you mean sex specifically: cats, like humans and any other sexually-reproducing species, remain unextinct largely because enough of them and their ancestors possessed the ability or disposition, on whatever levels of awareness, to find someone with whom to reproduce and mate with them. So that sense of a "concept of gender" seems much more obviously inherent to animals.
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