When people describe their cat as “just like a dog” what they mean is that their cat is not a dick. But a recent paper suggests that, contrary to feline stereotypes, cats are actually really into humans. Adding to a body of research that defends man’s most indifferent friend, the findings go as far as to say that cats like people more than food. Dogs don’t even seem sold on that detail.
“Increasingly cat cognition research is providing evidence of their complex socio-cognitive and problem-solving abilities,” the authors of the paper, published in the journal Behavioral Processes. “Nonetheless, it is still common belief that cats are not especially sociable or trainable.”
Despite evidence that cats are in fact trainable, their reputation for not listening to anything but the opening of a can of tuna precedes them. What’s more likely the issue is that humans aren’t training them right and aren’t prioritizing them the way that dog owners prioritize dogs.
Researchers from Oregon University confirmed this by analyzing the behaviors of 50 cats, half obtained from homes and the other half from shelters. Using cognitive tests previously applied to dogs, they deprived cats of food and social interactions for 2.5 hours. Then, they exposed cats to human socialization, food, toys, and scents such as gerbils and catnip. Results revealed that half of the cats preferred social interaction to every other type of stimuli, whereas only 37 percent of cats preferred food. “Although it is often thought cats prefer solitude to social interaction, the data of this study indicate otherwise,” study authors conclude.
Part of the reason why people assume cats hate them is because they expect them to be like dogs, when felines are significantly more independent than canines. One study, published in PLOS One, says that the biggest difference between cats and dogs (or cats and children, for that matter), is if you leave them alone in an unfamiliar place, they’re not going to freak out.
“For pet dogs, their owners often represent a specific safe haven; however it is clear that domestic cats are much more autonomous when it comes to coping with unusual situations,” study coauthor Daniel Mills, a Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine at the University of Lincoln in the UK, said in a statement. “Our findings don’t disagree with the notion that cats develop social preferences or close relationships, but they do show that these relationships do not appear to be typically based on a need for safety and security.”
So it’s not that cats aren’t as awesome as dogs—they don’t need you all that much. Which should suit you just fine. Because as long as your partner, kid, and dog are hanging on your coattails, your cat’s self-sufficiency is sure to come as a welcome relief.