In a massive turn up for the books, it seems that COVID has been good for us, as our cats will be nicer to us from now on.
The first law of the internet states that we’re in the employ of cats. They’re aloof, antagonistic and they will eat our corpses when we die. However, there’s a raft of new research that is slowly eroding our easy assumptions. First, there’s a study that suggests that they’ve been seriously impacted by the pandemic, as all the extra attention we’ve been giving them during lockdown will mean that they’re going to be nicer to us from now on.
The research, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, polled 5,323 people with companion animals, including horses, reptiles, birds and fish, along with the usual suspects – cats and dogs – to see what effect the massive changes in human routines have had on them. While the subtext of the study is that our pets have enjoyed having us around the house more (are suffered more when we left), the largest spike was in our feline friends.
The team suspects the perception of increased affection seen in 35.9 per cent of cats is possibly due to changes in owner behaviour, with the humans seeking increased company and close physical contact. This may have encouraged cats to seek more treats and other resources from their owners, they suggest.
In a separate study, researchers at Oregon State University discovered that many of them are pretty eager to interact with humans – particularly people who decide to introduce themselves.
“In both groups, we found spent significantly more time with people who were paying attention to them than people who were ignoring them,” said Kristyn R. Vitale, a postdoctoral scholar in animal behaviour and author of the paper.
In a previous study, Vitale discovered that cats will choose to interact with us over food and toys. In fact, the study blames us for painting them in such a negative light, because they’re inherently social, but the cage is man-made.
“It’s a cool study, and it does show that when we’re attentive to cats, they are interested,” said Mikel Delgado, a postdoctoral fellow who studies cat behaviour at the University of California at Davis’s School of Veterinary Medicine and sounds like an interesting person. The study went down like this. Researchers placed 46 cats in with a stranger who sat perfectly still on the floor.
For the first part of the test, the person ignored the cat. For the second half, they were allowed to call the cat by name and pet it if it approached.
On average, the cats spent much more time near the human when showered with attention, Vitale said.
Delgado praised the “cat-directed” design of the study, noting that previous research has suggested that cats are usually more into interactions that they instigate.
“Even in the attentive phase, the cat had a lot of control, and that’s really what we think they like – the ability to leave,” Delgado said. “It’s not that they’re aloof. It’s just that they want choice”.
Again, Delgado is a rather interesting fellow.
Clearly, the study has revealed a rather awkward truth. Just like people, some are lovely, and others are just, well, dicks. Frankly, those who assume someone is a dick before they’ve met them, or have made an effort, are real Garfields. Right?
The author of the study certainly thinks so, who believes that we should always approach grumpy cats, but bring love, not easy predispositions. By being cool, “you may actually be helping them become more social toward you.”