Abstraction, cruelty and other aspects of animal play (exemplified by the playfulness of Muki and Maluca)

  • Morten Tønnessen


Play behaviour is notorious for constituting a much debated, yet little clarified field of research. In this article, attempts are made to reach conclusions on the relation between human play and the play of other animals (especially cat play), as well as on the very character of play. The concept of Umwelt is reviewed, as are definitions of animal play, categorization of animal play and the role of meta-communication in playful behaviour. For some, play is a symbol of everything that is good. The author of the current article does not deny that social morality may have originated from play behaviour, but stresses the existence of cruelty play, which leads to additional assumptions. Another notion that is treated in some detail is perceptual play, which proves to demonstrate complex semiotic play that is related first of all to signification. At the end of the article an alternative categorization of animal play is suggested, in which the fundamental role of mind games is emphasized. Throughout the text, examples of play behaviour are offered by the two domestic cats Muki and Maluca.


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