Proof That Cats Like Humans Even More Than Food

Written by: Dina Fantegrossi
Dina Fantegrossi is the Assistant Editor and Head Writer for HomeLife Media. Before her career in writing, Dina was a veterinary technician for more than 15 years.Read more
| Published on March 28, 2017

Feline affections may be a bit more subtle and hard-won than those of our canine companions, but that just makes it all the more rewarding when they choose to share them with us.

Now, scientists have finally taken a step toward proving what cat lovers have known all along – kitties really do like us! In fact, they like us so much, that in a recent study, they chose human contact over food!

Researchers at Oregon State decided to test the hypothesis that cats are only viewed as less sociable and trainable because people have a “lack of knowledge of what stimuli cats prefer, and thus may be most motivated to work for.” In other words, if we understand what is important to our cats, we’ll get to the bottom of whether or not their purrs, nuzzles and headbutts are genuine, or just a survival skill.

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In order to test their theory, the researchers used cognitive tests previously used on dogs and tortoises. They presented a group of 50 adult cats from homes and a local shelter with three stimuli from each of the following four categories: human social interaction, food, toy, and scent.

After exposing them to the whole buffet of ear scratches, snacks, toys and kitty potpourri, they then segregated them from all stimuli for several hours. Upon being reintroduced, the cats had their choice of a social interaction with a human or their preferred stimuli from the other categories.

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More than 50% of the kitties chose human interaction above all else – even food! (I’m not sure 50% of the humans in my life would choose me over food!)

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Although 37% of the cats couldn’t resist chowing down first and asking questions later, the results were strong enough to draw the conclusion that socialization with us lowly humans is preferable to the majority of felines. Interestingly, there was no notable difference between the preferences of shelter cats vs. cats from homes.

There is precious little research on cat behavior compared to dogs, making it difficult to draw accurate conclusions as to how they feel about us. This particular study had a comparatively small subject pool, but will hopefully act as a springboard for scientists to initiate similar, more complex tests.

For now, I guess there’s just one thing left to say: Take that, dog people! (Just kidding, dog people are cool, too!)

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