Wednesday 11 August 2021

Cats rival dogs on many tests of social smarts, but very few scientists have the patience to try and study them

The thought in the title comes from a member of the website (u/Firewalke). I think it's a good thought and I am sure that many scientists would agree. There are far more animal studies in which dogs are the participants than studies incorporating cats. The reason would be the obvious: that dogs are more obedient than cats. They've been trained to take commands whereas cats simply don't which makes it difficult to carry out an efficiently run study.

Study using cats
Study using cats. Pic in public domain.

However, cats can be made to do things if you know how, by using human intelligence combined with a good knowledge of cat behaviour. But it takes more patience. I guess time is money. I think the thought that you're going to have to struggle to get cats to do what you want them to do in a study is off-putting. So, when scientists want to do an animal study, they tend to choose dogs.

Of course, it depends on the study. If you want to study cats then you've got to employ cats! But if you're studying general animal behaviour then a researcher will choose a dog I suspect.

Another aspect of dog and animal studies which I think is a problem is that scientists who do the studies often don't understand cats! I think a scientist who wants to study cats should have a good general knowledge of cat behaviour. And they should like cats or even love them because it will make them more patient.

I have read some studies where I have detected that the group of scientists who have conducted it don't have an intimate knowledge of cat behaviour through living with cats for a very long time. There's a difference in understanding cat behaviour by reading about it and understanding cat behaviour by living with cats. The former is more theoretical by the latter is completely genuine provided the cat caregiver is a keen observer and intelligent.

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