Tuesday 10 August 2021

Scientists say that domestic cats prefer to get free meals rather than work for them! Big deal.

I really can't understand what the UC Davis scientists are getting at in this study, which concluded that cats prefer to get free meals rather than work for them. They say that cats are unusual in that they prefer to eat from a bowl, given to them, rather than use an interactive feeder which makes it harder to get at the food. This is an invite for cat haters to say that cats are lazy good-for-nothings.

My cat using an interactive puzzle feeder
My cat using an interactive puzzle feeder. He is going against the grain in this activity according to the UC Davis study.

They say other animals, even giraffes, prefer the challenge of trying to get to food i.e. work for it, and don't like it served up. I find it extraordinary and I find it even more extraordinary that the scientists have spent time to come up with something which is very obvious.

Domestic cats have been domesticated for 10,000 years. They have become accustomed to feeding off bowls provided by their human caretaker. The domestic cat has been trained to eat from a bowl. They have learned to ask for food with a meow. This is how they interact with their human companions. It's a form of mutual training. The cat training the human to provide food and the cat eating food largely when and how the human desires.

So, what do you expect? You cannot expect a cat to prefer to use a puzzle feeder unless there is some other benefit in using it. Interestingly, my cat at the moment prefers to use an interactive, puzzle feeder rather than eating dry cat food from a bowl (see above). However, there is a good reason; his dry food bowl is on the kitchen counter. He has to jump up to it, whereas, his puzzle feeder is on the kitchen floor. It has to be because it's a ball and he pushes it around which allows pellets of dry cat food to fall out.

I think that animals find the route of least resistance when they are looking for food, given the choice or opportunity. The same applies to people. And what is strange is that in the write-up of this study they say that a body of research shows that 'most species' including, as mentioned, giraffes and wolves prefer to work for their food. But these are wild animals. How can you compare wild animals with domestic animals? I don't think you can, certainly not in this context.

Perhaps the write-up is inadequate or incomplete. But for me, this study is hopeless and lacks common sense. It lacks accuracy. The scientists say that domestic cats aren't lazy. But they also say that the reason why cats prefer to freeload for their food is unclear. How can it be unclear? Am I missing something? The reason why they freeload for food is because it is easier to get their meal that way.

Cats don't think rationally but they know how to get a meal more easily.

Associated: Contrafreeloading and the domestic cat - this is the same story but written up in an entirely different way. The lead author for this study is Mikel Delgado, a cat behaviorist and research affiliate at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

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