[Vision2020] Caturday (January 26, 2019)

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Sat Jan 26 05:30:38 PST 2019

Are cats antisocial? Or are you just a jerk? A new study from Oregon State University makes it clear on Caturday.

Courtesy of Big Think (New York City) at:



Are cats jerks? Or are YOU the jerk?

A new study from Oregon State University makes it clear: it's you.

Researchers discovered that the more attention you give a cat, the more likely they are to return it.

Cats are territorial; being in their home environment greatly affects their attitude.

The common wisdom that cats are aloof is provably false.
This weekend, my wife and I visited the San Diego Zoo. Having grown up nearby, she visited often as a child, though it was my first time. While I generally avoid zoos, this particular one is a leading conservation institute. While a sense of overbearing voyeurism inherent in the zoo process persists, at least my money supported beneficial projects. Plus, where else am I going to see baboons?

For the most part, the animals seemed content, or at least not distressed. Except one: the jaguar. When I passed by, two small children were plastered against the glass partition, the jaguar pacing back and forth seeking an exit ramp. Smiling parents snapped photos, laughing as their kids smacked the glass in an attempt to gain the jaguar's attention. "Look, he wants to play!" one mother commented.

No, that's not what the cat wanted to do. I wasn't sure if the mother was just reassuring her son no ill will would befall him or she really was that ignorant. I heard many odd ideas about what the animals were doing throughout the day. That's the danger of anthropomorphizing other species: we usually get it wrong.

Forget wild animals, we misunderstand domesticated breeds all the time. I'm not sure how many times someone has told me that house cats are aloof, but any cat guardian that takes the time to form a relationship with their housemates will quickly laugh that one away. For example, the picture below is where our three cats spend most of the day while I work at my laptop.

Considering all three are males, it's not always this peaceful. Every night we have to separate them; either two of them sleep on our bed, or just the Maine Coon, Magellan, the most territorial of them all. Every morning includes lap time or they get irritated. To claim that cats aren't social is simply a way to claim your ignorance about this particular animal.

Which is the topic of a new study, conducted by researchers at Oregon State University and published in the journal Behavioral Processes. In the first experiment, a total of 46 cats were studied, 23 at a shelter and the other half in their own homes. A stranger sat in the middle of the room, ignoring the cat for two minutes before spending the next two showering them with attention. The second study followed the same protocol, though with their guardians, not strangers.

Regardless of whether it was guardian or stranger, cats are more social when humans pay attention to them. As lead author of the study, Kristyn R. Vitale, says:

"In both groups, we found [cats] spent significantly more time with people who were paying attention to them than people who were ignoring them."

They're pretty human in that sense. The more you pay attention to someone, the more likely they are to interact with you. Of course, there are a few things to consider:

-	Like humans, some cats are more social than others.

-	Understanding how your cat likes to be engaged is essential. Our cats are three distinct animals with different personalities, and so are treated as such.

-	Cats are territorial. They generally prefer to be at home with strangers than with their owners in a foreign space.

Territory is generally secondary with dogs, who prefer to be around their owner most of all. In fact, treating cats like dogs is likely the main reason many people are ignorant about feline social behaviors. As Jackson Galaxy writes in Total Cat Mojo:

Part of the issue is that we, perhaps subconsciously, look at cats through dog-colored glasses; that is to say, we expect them to communicate with us in a way that we can instantly recognize. As you can guess by now, that expectation goes against the entire history of our relationship to cats.


Photos . . .




“Caturday” by Linus Petit

Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
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