There is a perception of cats as rather aloof animals; imperiously going about their lives with a nonchalant flick of the tail and a casual touching up of their whiskers, impervious to their human counterparts until they need food or fancy a back rub.
Personally this is one of the things I love about our feline friends, their independence and laconic mannerisms are reminiscent of their larger relatives in the predatory world of big cats – seeing the same characteristics displayed in miniature is amusing and endearing. They might also be a lower maintenance pet than dogs (cue furious debate).
However, science might have just come to the rescue of those who maintain that their cats love them just as much as a dog loves its respective owner; no longer will they be met with a snort of derision and a sympathetic glance from their dog-loving contemporaries. After all; it’s science, and you can’t argue with that.
Oregon State University has conducted research, published in Behavioural Processes suggesting that cats derive greater pleasure from human contact than they do from eating.
As part of the research, 50 cats were chosen from both shelters and people’s houses and subsequently denied food, human contact, scent and toys for a couple of hours at a time. They were then reacquainted with each stimuli in four categories so that the researches could ascertain what the cats would choose.
The reason behind the – clearly unfair – reputation that cats have garnered of being rather anti-social and aloof, say researchers, is a “lack of knowledge of what stimuli cats prefer, and thus may be most motivated to work for.”
From the study, it seems clear that a significant percentage of the cats opted for human interaction over any other category, researchers explain:
“While it has been suggested that cat sociality exists on a continuum, perhaps skewed toward independency, we have found that 50% of cats tested preferred interaction with the social stimulus even though they had a direct choice between social interaction with a human and their other most preferred stimuli from the three other stimulus categories.”
So, cat lovers, fear no more, your cat does have some affection for you, and now you have concrete scientific proof to back up your claims.