Cats enjoy social interactions with people

Cats are more social than society typically gives them credit for.

The results of a study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University will not surprise cat owners, but it will allow them to have a response to dog owners who claim cats don’t love people like dogs do. Researchers presented cats with multiple stimuli in the form of social interaction, food, toys, or scent. The cats chose people more often than any of the other options. The study was published online in Behavioural Processes on March 24.

Researchers studied two groups of 19 cats—those from shelters and those from home environments. The cats’ ages ranged from 1–20. Cats were then isolated from social attention and food for a few hours before the test. When let out, they were presented different options for a certain kind of stimuli. For example, in one session, they would have access to food, a toy mouse with a shaker inside, a person inviting them to interact, or cloths scented with catnip.

The proportion of time they spent with each of these different objects and the interest they showed was recorded. Then, after researchers determined their preferred choice from each of the four categories (social interaction, food, toys, scent), the cat was introduced to their preferred stimulus from each category all at the same time.

There was a clear individual variability, but social interaction with humans was the most-preferred stimulus category for the cats. Of the total, 50% went to people first, and 65% of the final session time was spent with humans.

The runner up? Food, which cats went to first 37% of the time.

There wasn’t a difference in the choices of cats from either homes or shelters.

The researchers concluded that further studies could be done to see whether using a cat preferred stimulus would help motivate them perform requested tasks.

Photo credit: © iStock/Art-Of-Photo

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