Cat owners are well aware of the fact that cats can be extremely lively, loving, and entertaining characters, but few others recognize this. Many individuals consider cats to be aloof or lazy creatures–too independent to care much for human interaction. However, while they are definitely far more independent than dogs, cats yet love to interact with their owners in their own way and on their own terms–and not just because this is how they get their food.
Various studies into cats and feline behavior have indicated that there is far more to them than lazy, aloof creatures who look down their noses at “those humans” who serve them. It’s true that some cats are truly scared, anxious or shy and seem to prefer spending most of their time hiding in boxes and other dark areas of the house, but this should be viewed as the exception rather than the rule. In fact, learning how to understand a cat is honestly as simple as recognizing that they each have their own, unique personality and therefore have their own, unique way of interacting with and loving their owners.
A study shared in the Oregon State University publication Behavioural Processes has recently shined a light on the fact that, contrary to what Garfield may have tried to convince us all, cats normally love their owners more than they love food. Similar studies have been previously conducted on dogs and tortoises, and researchers subsequently determined that it was time to dig deeper into the relationships cats form with their owners in order to better understand these whimsical creatures.
Researchers commented on the fact that studies into cat cognition have been able to provide evidence that cats have complex socio-cognitive and problem-solving abilities, despite the fact that they are often seen to be unsociable and difficult or even impossible to train. In actual fact, proper advice on cat behavior would encourage owners to consider that cats prefer very specific stimuli, and will, therefore, be most motivated to work by the proper stimuli. Not only are these stimuli unique to cats, they can be unique to the breed, age and even personality of a specific cat.
As part of the study, fifty different cats were put through a series of cognitive tests. Some of these cats were pets comfortably placed in homes, while others had been borrowed from animal shelters. Every cat participating in the study was deprived of food, toys, and human interaction for a few hours before being presented with these items. The purpose, of course, was to see which of these items the cats were most attracted to, and therefore had missed the most. Almost all of the cats desired human interaction first, with roughly fifty percent of the cats preferring chin scratches and petting over any other offered stimuli. Less than forty percent of the cats chose to receive food first. Additionally, researchers noticed that there was no real difference between the actions and preferences of the pet cats over the shelter cats–they all seemed to want human interaction more than anything else.
Needless to say, the fact that research has indicated that cats enjoy receiving love from humans and actually tend to prefer it over food does not negate the fact that they are still uniquely individual. Not all cats appreciate it when their owner suddenly descends upon them, determined to pet and cuddle them. Some cats want their love and interaction in very specific ways, and may actually become frustrated if they feel it is either overdone or underdone. Rather than chalking this up to the “cold aloofness” of felines, consider what makes your cat unique from others, and take a good look at their personality before trying to determine what stimuli they most prefer. If you do this, you may just discover that you can form a deep, meaningful, and highly satisfying relationship with your cat that is as unique as they are.