Half of cats were 'put out' by having their owners at home all the time during lockdown. True? False?
It's reported in news media that a study by James Cook University found that about 50% of cat owners felt that their cats have been 'put out' by the presence of their owners because they were around far more than usual during the coronavirus pandemic due to homework and lockdowns. Conversely, they found that dogs were delighted that their owners were around far more often.
|Human body language signal to cat elicits loving response. Screenshot.|
I'd like to comment on that result briefly if I may. The result hints at the so-called independence and solitary nature of the domestic cat compared to the claimed more sociable and friendly nature of the dog. But this is a misconception. And I don't think the difference in behaviour between cats and dogs to the lockdown is due to the cat's less sociable nature compared to the dog.
I think it is because cats set up routines and rhythms with their owners. They are very much into routines and habits. And if you change those habits, they question it. It could be anything. But they'll be put out if you change any of their routines.
If you move the furniture around, they'll be temporarily 'put out'. And the phrase 'put out' is probably wrong in this instance because it has negative connotations. When a cat owner is suddenly around more in the home their cat companion is not put out but surprised by the sudden change and take a short while to adjust.
I would say that domestic cats in countries where there were lockdowns and home working have been very happy to have their humans around far more often. This is because domestic cats are quite sociable creatures. They've learned this during about 10,000 years of domestication. They do become very attached to their owners, which is once again a product of domestication.
The domestic cat is not solitary like its wildcat ancestor. And in the best homes they become bonded to their human guardian.
I've not seen the full text of the study so I am relying upon a summary provided by news media which is a bit dangerous. But they do quote the study as follows:
"About 50% of cat owners reported that their cats were behaving in ways that were interpreted as being 'put out' by their owners all the time. Whereas almost 100% of dog owners reported that their dogs were just loving the fact that they were home all the time."
A final point should be made. The study relied on cat owners' observations of their cats to assess their feelings. This is unreliable. A lot of cat owners project their feelings onto their cat companion. And I suspect that this is what has happened in this study. The owner is home all the time, they look at their cat and they believe their cat is put out because they are anxious themselves about the possibility that their cat would be upset by their presence at home all day long. It's quite possibly a reflection of their own anxieties. This happens a lot and for dogs too.
The bottom line is that domestic cats prefer it when their owner is at home all the time. Their life is enhanced. Cats welcome it provided the owner is good at the job of looking after a domestic cat. If the opposite is the case, then human presence of any kind is going to be unwelcome.