WDue to their seemingly stubborn nature, cats are often accused of being moody or even stubborn. They need their space and don’t want to be petted everywhere and anytime. It would actually be more fair to say: cats know what they like – and what they don’t like. But do self-proclaimed cat lovers even know what their four-legged friends like?
This question is researchers of the British Nottingham Trent University and University of Nottingham in association with the London Animal Shelter Battersea Dogs and Cats Home pursued. In an experiment, they determined how cat lovers behave towards animals. “Each cat has certain preferences for how they would like to be treated,” explains animal researcher Lauren Finka in a press release. “However, there are also some general principles that should be followed to ensure that every cat is as comfortable as possible.”
The scientists published their results in the journalScientific Reports“. But before we tell you more, we want to ask you something:
120 cat lovers participated
For the study, 120 volunteers each spent five minutes alone with three cats they didn’t know at a London shelter. Participants were between 18 and 75 years old, the clear majority were women (90 percent). The researchers issued a guideline: people should let the cats approach them instead of following them. Otherwise, candidates were allowed to handle the animals as they would normally do.
In advance, participants were asked to fill out a survey about their personal characteristics and previous experience with cats. Some self-proclaimed cat experts emerged who described themselves as “very knowledgeable.” In fact, the researchers also noticed a difference in handling the cat between them and the other participants — but a rather curious one:
“Cat connoisseurs” tended to pet animals in places where cats hesitated to touch them
Participants presented as “cat experts” tended to stroke the London cats on the leg, belly, back and tip of the tail. However, animals often find such touches unpleasant, according to the study. They prefer to be scratched on the ear, chin and cheeks.
In addition, some long-term cat owners and owners of several household cats gave the animals less freedom in the experiment than they really needed. Other longtime cat owners fared better: They only interacted with cats if the animals did, and only touched their four-legged friends on pleasant parts of the body.
According to Finka and her colleagues, subjects behaved differently when dealing with cats, depending on their age and personality. For example, older people kept cats more often and longer. The researchers found something similar in participants who described neurotic tendencies in the survey. Extroverts, on the other hand, often tried to approach the animals and stroked their legs, stomachs and tails.
Scientists observed a positive attitude in people with a pleasant, calmer personality. They rarely touched the sensitive parts of the cat’s body. People who reported working or had worked with cats for a living also appeared to have a better understanding of the animals’ needs.
How can humans be more responsive to cats?
According to Finka, the results of the experiment suggest that “certain characteristics that make someone seem suitable for dealing with cats – such as how much knowledge they think they have, how much experience they have as a cat owner and how old they are should not always be taken as reliable indicators of a person’s suitability to adopt particular cats’.
The aim of the study is not to discredit cat lovers. “We can use this information to develop targeted educational measures,” the scientist said. For example, an important principle when handling cats would be to remain passive at first. This gives the cat time to get used to you. When she is ready, she will approach and make contact.
The shelter has a helpful video Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has already been drafted. This is meant to show cat lovers how to treat pets better. And those interested may be encouraged to get a cat of their own.
Of course, each cat has its own preferences and personal characteristics:
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