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Why are cats antisocial? It’s actually down to you

The research into cat behavior comes from Oregon State University, and it finds that most cats are keen to interact with humans. This includes shelter and rescue cats that may not have experienced much in the way of human interaction or who may have been mistreated. In essence, cats generally like people that want to be around them. However, cats will not respond in a friendly way to everyone.

The degree to which a cat will appear friendly to a person is connected to how friendly a person has been towards the cat. The researchers showed this by running a study involving two sets of people. The researchers had previously assessed how many cats will still put human interaction, under the right conditions, above food of playing with toys.

A cat called Gizmo  showing all the signs of being sociable.

A cat called Gizmo, showing all the signs of being sociable.

The researchers assessed cat sociability based on the duration of time in proximity and contact with the human, plus the frequency of meow vocalizations. The outcome was that human attentional state influenced cat behavior, resulting in cats spending significantly more time in proximity with the attentive human in both the pet and shelter groups.

A journalist using a laptop while two young cats looks on.

A journalist using a laptop while two young cats looks on.

With the first stage of the study, 46 cats (50 percent from an animal shelter and 50 percent house cats) were placed in a room with a stranger, with cats being assessed one at a time. The person sat still on the floor and ignored the cat for two minutes. Once this time had elapsed, the person proceeded to call the cat by its name and allowed the cat to approach. For the second part of the study only house cats were used and here the person could called the cat by name and petted it freely when it approached.

The results showed that the cats spent much more time near the human when they received a lot of attention.

Two cats (Stripe and Gizmo) sit on a woman s lap.

Two cats (Stripe and Gizmo) sit on a woman’s lap.

Commenting on the study, lead researcher Kristyn R. Vitale said to Science Alert: “In both groups, we found [cats] spent significantly more time with people who were paying attention to them than people who were ignoring them.”

The research indicates that cats are attuned to our behavior and respond to the behaviors exhibited by a human, which is an area of animal psychology that is under-explored.

The research has been published in the journal Behavioral Processes. The research paper is titled “The quality of being sociable: The influence of human attentional state, population, and human familiarity on domestic cat sociability.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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