If you had to guess — and you do, because I’m asking you to very nicely — which of these would you say is a cat’s favorite thing to do?
• Interact with a human.
• Play with a toy.
• Eat food.
Did you guess food? I would’ve guessed food. Although, I suppose you read the headline, and so you know: A cat’s favorite thing to do is interacting with humans, according to my new favorite study, published online last week in Behavioural Processes. At Motherboard, writer Jordan Pearson explains how the researchers — who hail from Oregon State University and Monmouth University — came to this conclusion after observing both pet cats and shelter cats:
The test took 50 cats both from people’s homes and from a shelter and deprived them of food, toys, and people for a few hours. Then, researchers presented the cats with different stimuli within four categories: human socialization, food, scent, and toys. The researchers concluded that there were no significant differences between the homed and the shelter cats, and that most cats preferred human socialization to any of the other categories. Half of the cats preferred social interaction to every other stimulus type, while only 37 percent preferred food.
This is especially interesting, the researchers point out, because it pokes a little hole in a common theory about cats — that they are indifferent to humans because the human-cat relationship is a relatively new one; we’re still getting to know each other. (We tend to compare their behavior to dogs, for example, who have lived with us for tens of thousands of years.) On the contrary, the study authors write, “the idea that cats have not been domesticated long enough to show preference toward human interaction is not supported by these data.” That’s an intriguing idea, along with the fact that rewarding cats with social interaction may be a good strategy to get them to do what you want. But beyond that, there is this: Your cat enjoys spending time with you. And the feeling is mutual, cat.