The long-held belief that cats are aloof animals that don’t like spending time with their owners may not be true, a new study suggests.
A team of researchers from Oregon State University and New Jersey’s Monmouth University found that on the contrary, cats seem to enjoy being with their owners, disproving theories that they are unsociable and condescending companions, Tech Times reports.
The scientists observed cats and applied similar cognitive tests that have already been conducted on dogs and tortoises, with the intent of proving that cats are far from unfriendly.
The study evaluated cats’ sociability by testing their preferences in four external stimuli or incentives, namely human social interaction, food, toys and smell.
Similar to how Galapagos tortoises were shown to favor interactions with their keepers, half the cats that participated in the study chose human contact rather than the other stimuli presented to them, even over food.
The researchers point out that “while it has been suggested that cat sociality exists on a continuum, perhaps skewed toward independency,” cats actually enjoy human company and like to be cuddled and petted by humans.
They might even like human contact more than dogs, which have proven to prefer food to petting.
The study observed 50 cats that came from private homes and animal shelters. They research team deprived them of the four incentives for a few hours in order to check on which one the cats would go to when the same stimuli were reintroduced.
Of the participating cats, half of them favored spending time with people rather than the other incentives, while around 37% chose their stomachs and went for food.
The researchers explain that the perception of cats being difficult to train might be more because pet owners don’t fully understand what cats like and what motivates them to act. Previous analyses of feline cognitive skills have already revealed that cats have “complex socio-cognitive and problem solving abilities,” they say.
Hopefully, this new study could help develop specific training strategies for cats. The team will continue their observations, this time by focusing on breed and how past experiences with humans might affect a cat’s preferences.
The study was published in the journal Behavioural Processes.