“…cats who tolerate, rather than enjoy or dislike being petted, seem to be the most stressed.” (Professor Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine at the University of Lincoln)
The above quote by Professor Mills is one of the major conclusions drawn from a recent international study by animal behaviour specialists from:
- University of Lincoln, UK
- University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
- University of Veterinary Medicine, Austria
The objective of the study was to better understand how domestic cats feel about living with people. It is quite a neat study because I think it is the first time where scientists have investigated whether the cat is satisfied with domestication. The answer, by the way is a conditional YES.
Cats are OK with living with people and in groups. The domestic cat has become sociable but….just like humans they need their own space, litter, food bowl and hiding place and should be treated as individuals.
“It seems even if they are not best friends, cats may be able to organise themselves to avoid each other without getting stressed..”
Cats can get along in groups or colonies when the conditions are right (food and shelter etc.)
To be honest, I don’t think the conclusion gleaned from this study is news to cat lovers. We know how to read cat body language. A good cat caretaker understands cat behaviour and knows the likes and dislikes of their cat.
The important concept that cats are individuals – and all cat lovers are aware of this – extends to whether or not the cat likes, dislikes or tolerates being stroked and petted. We love to pet our cat. It is part of the pleasures of living with a cat.
However, some cats don’t like it or at best tolerate it. If a cat tolerates it but does not necessarily like it he or she will become stressed. The cat who is less stressed is the one who is happy to let his buddy take the petting away from him/her.
The key is to do what pleases your cat and you equally rather than assuming your cat likes petting and loving.
I have always been of the opinion that stroking should be limited in duration and strength. Cats do adapt well, though – they get used our likes and dislikes too.
Two examples of body language for me that indicate that my cat is unsure about my stroking, touching or holding him. He might (a) shake his head after the stroking or (b) lick his nose (displacement behaviour indicating uncertainty).
Note: some newspapers are saying you should not stroke your cat because it stresses your cat. This is wrong and misses the point. It is a far more subtle situation than that.