New Study: Domestic Cats Most Like to Interact with Humans

When given a choice of what they would prefer to do, domestic cats prefer to spend time with their human companions for social stimulation than be given food or engage in other activities.

Cat and child
Cat interacting with a child
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The study found that 50% of the cats tested preferred to interact with their humans in providing social stimulus even though they had a choice between social interaction with their human companion or three other “stimulus categories”. The four types of different stimulation in the study were: human interaction, food, toys and scent.

The second most popular type of stimulation for a domestic cat is eating food. This was preferred by 37% of the cats in the study which, by the way, was a small study of 50 cats.

The study comes from Oregon State University, USA. The participating cats came from homes and from animal shelters. The study goes against the grain because many people believe that the domestic cat is not very sociable or indeed trainable.

However, the domestic cat is today really quite a sociable animal thanks to thousands of years of domestication. This study might help people to train the cat because if you know a cat’s preferences in terms of stimulation then you know the sort of reward that will motivate him or her.

The researchers recorded the proportion of time that the cats spent engaged in each activity. They presented the cats with the four types of stimulation at the same time to allow the cats to choose. As mentioned, most cats prefer to socialise with humans over the other forms of stimulation.

This research is also useful in that it helps to inform cat owners how best to enrich the domestic cat’s environment. Human interaction should be a priority.

The research probably tells us that cats don’t like to be alone – we already know this, I think. The idea that domestic cats are independent and don’t mind being alone is incorrect. People keep cats because they think that they are independent and that when they are at work their cat will be okay. This will probably not be the case unless their are other forms of social stimuli.

We do know that cats can suffer from separation anxiety and that cats can become stressed when their caretaker is away from home too long during the day.

3 thoughts on “New Study: Domestic Cats Most Like to Interact with Humans”

  1. The persons who did this study failed to include one very important stimulus, the company of other cats. If interaction with humans is the only game in town and the choice of spending time with others of their own species is not an option to be included in the study, I have to question its validity. I have been doing cat rescue/have a sanctuary for nearly 30 years and I have some cats that despite having them for a number of years and some even since they were kittens, they do not choose to interact with me period…my being the one who delivers the food to them is the only time they welcome being touched and some not even then. Most of them do eventually decide that being friendly with a human and actually like interacting with me not just for the food factor is something they will choose to do, but others prefer the company of their own kind paws down, and only tolerate my presence. It would seem their study was a bit prejudiced with only very friendly domestic cats included…it does not say whether or not the cats in their study were solo cats or came from a multi-cat home. It also did not say what the shelter environment was like…were the cats able to have freedom in a room or were they kept isolated in the typical cages…in which case having a chance to interact with a human versus being kept in a stainless steel cubicle with no stimlation and typical junk kibble for food would not be much of a stretch to choose interaction with a human over nothing. stimulationufschoice

  2. I’ve been been very objective in studying cats as companions, constantly asking myself the same questions that doubters do. To put it briefly, dogs are hard-wired to be near us, even depend on us for every decision there is to make and how to act. Cats aren’t, and I think that’s a good thing, because if given some attention, affection and reason to trust us, they choose to. They make a conscious choice that, yeah, my human is cool to me and “likes” my company. I don’t have to, I want to. My cats follow me around, sleep with me on my bed, listen to me when I call them and genuinely like me in an honest way, by choice. They are genuinely loyal, by choice, not just genetics or habit.

  3. These conclusions are very debatable. A cat only needs to spend a few minutes each day eating and to use that necessarily limited time as a measure of reduced importance compared to the much longer time spend enjoying human company is patently ridiculous. The cat to human relationship is a continuation of the kitten to mother relationship wherein food is the primary concern. Protection, warmth, and what is seen as affection are consequential follow-ons, but develop an importance all of their own.


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