Cute cat videos and owner cues: what came first?

More than two million cat videos were posted on YouTube in 2014, with almost 26 billion views, according to RealSEO. In fact, cat videos had more views per video than any other category of YouTube content.

And there’s a good reason why, a new study suggests.

The study, conducted by the Indiana University Media School and published this month in Computers in Human Behavior, surveyed almost 7,000 people about their viewing of cat videos and how it affects their moods. The study results were largely positive.

Participants reported more positive energy, fewer negative emotions, and more pleasure than guilt about procrastinating. They also often watched Internet cats at work or while studying, and tended to be cat owners with a shy or agreeable personality type

“Even if [people] are watching cat videos on YouTube to procrastinate or while they should be working, the emotional pay-off may actually help people take on tough tasks afterward,” Jessica Myrick, PhD, told the UK’s Daily Mail.

But could it be that cats' antics are a result of taking cues from their owners? Another study suggests that.

The study, published in Animal Cognition in January, was conducted at the University in Milan in Italy and involved 24 cats and their owners.

“The aim,” study authors told National Public Radio (NPR), “was to evaluate whether cats use the emotional information provided by their owners about a novel/unfamiliar object to guide their own behavior towards it.”

In this case, the novel object was a fan with plastic green ribbons attached to it. The video camera was hidden behind a screen. Cat owners responded positively and negatively, in turn, and the cats’ responses were recorded.

Seventy-nine percent of the cats looked at their owners’ reactions for emotional cues. And for those in the “negative owner” group, they alternated their gaze more often toward the screen, which was their only way out of the room.





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