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Cats Actually Enjoy Spending Time With Their Owners, Study Shows

Mar 28, 2017 10:09 AM EDT

Despite having the reputation of always thinking how to kill their humans, a new study from Oregon State University revealed that cats actually enjoy being with their owners.

The study, published in the journal Behavioral Processes, showed that cats prefer spending time with their owners than eating food and playing with toys.

For the study, the researchers analyzed 50 cats. These cats were either living in a home or were spending time on shelters. The researchers left the cats without human interaction, food and toys for several hours. They then presented four different kinds of stimuli to the cat, including human interaction, toys, food and scent. They did these things to investigate domestic cat preferences at the individual and population level using a free operant preference assessment.

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The researchers measured how much time a cat spend with each of the stimuli. They then presented the four stimuli at the same time and let the cat choose which one is their favorite. Surprisingly, about 50 percent of the cat chose human interaction over the three other stimuli. Following human interaction, 37 percent of the cats preferred food. The researchers observed the same results in pet and shelter populations.

Cats have a clear individual variability when it comes to their preferred stimuli. The researchers noted that owners could use their cat's preference as some kind of reinforcer or enrichment items if they want to train their cats. However, further research is still necessary to examine the effectiveness of using preferred stimuli as enrichment in applied settings. Additionally, future studies could also concentrate on the effects of the preferred stimuli to the cat's motivation to work.

According to APPA National Pet Owners Survey of the American Pet Products Association, about 42.9 million households in the United States own at least one cat in 2016, with an average of two cats per household. The estimated number of pet cats in the U.S. is 85.8 million.

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