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Studying Cat to Human Interactions

Do we know how we interact with our cat? What I mean is over a period of time and analyzed, what kind of interactions take place? We might be surprised at the kind of interactions that we have with our cat. A study did take place in 1991 (Mertens) in which interactions between cats and humans in the home were examined.  The study lasted a year - a comprehensive period of time. 162 people and 72 cats were observed. The researcher "disguised" herself as visitor to minimize the impact of her presence. It seems that all the usual casual and almost invisible interactions that we don't realize are happening were recorded.

Surprisingly or not, Mertens concluded that most of the interactions where not very long and interactions in general were not that frequent. People approached the cat more often than the cat approached the person. However, when the cat did approach the two stayed within one meter of each other for longer than if the person had approached the cat. Note: my thought on that is that when a cat approaches we probably feel that our cat is asking for something and we respond by providing it.

A notable conclusion was that cat/human interactions were affected by the age and sex of the person:
  • Adult people spoke to their cat earlier and for longer in the interaction than did children.
  • Women had more interaction than men because in part and in general they spent more time in the home.
  • 11-15 year old people had the least amount of interaction and were less likely to be near the cat (within one meter of the cat).
  • Cats in multiple cat households had less social play with owners that cats in single cat households.
  • When the human family was smaller the cat received more attention in the form of being close to the cat and being stroked.
In another study, Turner, found that purebred cats tended to more often meet people's expectations. People generally have expectations concerning cats. This is an important area because misplaced expectations can lead to abandonment.

Both the cat and the person made adjustments for the partnership to work. Heidenberger studied the cat to human interaction in 1997. Amongst other things he found that "neutered females were perceived most often as exhibiting problem behavior". Also it seems that the more interaction you have with your cat the fewer cat behavior problems you have.

The difficulty here is that "cat behavior problems" are often not cat behavior problems but human dislikes and likes.


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