Cats found to like humans more than thought

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(—A trio of researchers with Oregon State University and Monmouth University has conducted experiments with cats, and has found that they appear to like humans more than expected. In their paper published in the journal Behavioral Processes, Kristyn Vitale Shreve, Lindsay Mehrkam and Monique Udell describe their experiments and their plans for conducting additional experiments to better understand cat motivations.

Cats have a reputation as being stand-offish and somewhat distant—some have suggested they only hang around their owners because of the easy meals. But they may actually like their owners more than their reputation suggests, the researchers with this new effort found. They point out that may simply be misunderstood, noting that recent research has found that cats have complex socio-cognitive and problem solving abilities. They suggest further that the commonly held belief that cats are less reactive to social stimuli might be due to a lack of knowledge regarding the things that cats actually find stimulating.

To assess the degree to which cats like (or are stimulated by) certain things, the researchers tested reactions from two groups of 19 cats each—those living with people and those living in a shelter. The cats were kept sequestered for two and a half hours and were then watched as they were presented with three items from one of four category types: food, scent, toy and human interaction. The researchers mixed up the stimuli for the different cats to get a better read on which they found the most stimulating. The degree of preference for any one stimulus was judged by which the cat went for first and how and for how long it interacted with it.

The researchers report that they found clear variability among the cats regardless of home type, but overall social interaction with humans was the stimulus most preferred—half of the cats chose interacting with a human above anything else offered, which included food—they spent on average 65 percent of their time interacting with a person. This, the researchers suggest, shows that cats really do like being around their human owners, despite how they might behave around them.

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More information: Kristyn R. Vitale Shreve et al, Social interaction, food, scent or toys? A formal assessment of domestic pet and shelter cat ( Felis silvestris catus ) preferences, Behavioural Processes (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2017.03.016

Domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) engage in a variety of relationships with humans and can be conditioned to engage in numerous behaviors using Pavlovian and operant methods Increasingly cat cognition research is providing evidence of their complex socio-cognitive and problem solving abilities. Nonetheless, it is still common belief that cats are not especially sociable or trainable. This disconnect may be due, in part, to a lack of knowledge of what stimuli cats prefer, and thus may be most motivated to work for. The current study investigated domestic cat preferences at the individual and population level using a free operant preference assessment. Adult cats from two populations (pet and shelter) were presented with three stimuli within each of the following four categories: human social interaction, food, toy, and scent. Proportion of time interacting with each stimulus was recorded. The single most-preferred stimulus from each of the four categories were simultaneously presented in a final session to determine each cat's most-preferred stimulus overall. Although there was clear individual variability in cat preference, social interaction with humans was the most-preferred stimulus category for the majority of cats, followed by food. This was true for cats in both the pet and shelter population. Future research can examine the use of preferred stimuli as enrichment in applied settings and assess individual cats' motivation to work for their most-preferred stimulus as a measure of reinforcer efficacy.

Journal information: Behavioural Processes

© 2017

Citation: Cats found to like humans more than thought (2017, March 29) retrieved 21 September 2019 from
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Mar 29, 2017
Big news: Researchers discover something every cat owner knows.

Mar 29, 2017
I take it they haven't been watching 'My Cat From Hell' on TV...
Enrich environment wholesale. Provide complex topology to prowl. Provide outlook perch. Provide toys, multiple. PLAY with cats. Oh, and feed them like hungry Hobbits...
Job Done.

Mar 29, 2017
Humans still lose to laser pointers though.

Mar 30, 2017
This feline species is obviously just a human parasite. Cats and non-working canines should be removed from human populations. Any benefits should be obtained by collection of their skin surface lipids and administered by an exocrinologist.

Man. Stop breathing. You're sick.

Mar 30, 2017
This feline species is obviously just a human parasite. Cats and non-working canines should be removed from human populations. Any benefits should be obtained by collection of their skin surface lipids and administered by an exocrinologist.

I know a number of people with equal parasitic tendencies that the human race could actually do away with.

Mar 30, 2017
i upgraded you Bubba -- that did not deserve a 1 -- i personally thought it was awesome

Mar 30, 2017
I thought i was on Onion news for a minute.

Mar 30, 2017
Kitty Cats do what ever the hell they want to do on their own damn sweet time.

Apr 02, 2017
Would be interesting to see the male/female split. In my experience males are far more affectionate.

Apr 09, 2017
Fully agree with all that . I lost my cat ( like the picture ) two weeks ago and it is a big pain ,for me and my familly . He was 17 years old ,a familly member,since he found out us in French Guiana in 2000. He was like a dog ,warning us for robbers close to our house in Guiana, warning us when a leak of water with the washing machine,when a smell of burning in the kitchen etc... Every morning no need of clock ,every one wake up at AM 6 H 30 . He did understood French and Italian. A big loss indeed . Myself I rather was for dogs only ,but as my wife told me ( and I learned it) when you communicate with cats ,they answer you . Is that so different with people ? When you agree that others are not stupid you can communicate with them . On the contrary nothing is possible . MERCI BEAUCOUP of your kind scientific article

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