There is an element of common sense in the conclusions of this study by researchers at Oregon State University. As I understand it, if a cat owner is paying attention to their cat i.e. is in an “attentional state” then their cat will not be aloof or less likely to be aloof. The word ‘aloof’ is often used in connection with domestic cats and I have always thought it unfair and misleading or plain wrong.
It seems that the idea that domestic cats are aloof is at least partly due to the fact that people think they are aloof and therefore do not pay attention to them. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy as I see it. But that’s my interpretation.
The researchers do not define what “attentional state” means. If it means that you are interacting with your cat then of course he or she is bound to not be aloof because they will normally interact back.
I suspect that attentional state means that the person presents a body language to their cat which indicates that they are attentive which their cat picks up. An attentional state influences the social behaviour of domestic cats. Cats, both cats in shelters and domestic cats in homes, “spent significantly more time in proximity and contact to the human during the attentive phase”.
The researchers say that cats are “sensitive to many human cues, including pointing gestures, human emotions, human mood and human vocalisations”. Cats respond to “happy emotional cues”.
There is also the fact that cats are individuals so some are aloof or less friendly than others. The reasons are probably the same reasons (at a fundamental level) as to why humans vary in character, namely, genetics, early experiences (with humans) and learning during adolescence.
The researchers say that it is worth making the first move even if the cat seems detached and aloof. The conclusion is that cat owners should “try to interact with your cat and see what happens”.
Comment: I’m not completely sure what this research brings to the table. It is probably saying that if people have a perception that the domestic cat is aloof then they will reinforce that perception by failing to interact i.e. failing to adopt an attentive state. Some people should change their mindset about domestic cats and present themselves as attentive.
If you are interested you can read the entire paper: