People who consider themselves competent and experienced cat parents may actually give their felines too much affection — or at least not pass it off in the best way, a new study reveals.
Previous research has helped establish how cats should be handled to make them feel comfortable, or at least less hostile and perhaps a bit more affectionate. This includes areas of the body where animals like to be petted, and how and when they prefer to be picked up.
Self-confessed ‘cat people’ tend to pet animals in areas they aren’t so comfortable with, and give felines fewer choices about how they pet, according to the new research. are manipulated.
“Of course, every cat is an individual and many will have specific preferences as to how they prefer to interact with them,” says Lauren Finka, an animal behavior and welfare researcher at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. .
“However, there are also some good general principles to follow in order to ensure that each cat is as comfortable as possible and that their specific needs are met.”
The study involved around 120 volunteers who had five minutes each at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home with three cats they did not know. Each volunteer was asked to complete a survey in advance, rating their personality and experience with cats.
As well as being told to let the cats approach them rather than following the animals, those involved in the experiment were encouraged to interact with the felines as they normally would with cats they might have at home.
Researchers found that people who felt they were more experienced and knowledgeable with cats were more likely to touch animals at the base of the tail, legs, back and belly – areas where cats typically dislike not be petted (they usually prefer the ears, cheeks and under the chin).
Additionally, participants who reported having more cats in the home and who had had cats for longer were less likely to give cats as much control and freedom during interactions as they really should have.
“Our results suggest that some characteristics that we might assume would make someone good at interacting with cats – how knowledgeable they say they are, their experiences as a cat owner and their advanced age – should not always be considered reliable indicators of a person’s suitability for adopting certain cats, especially those with specific handling or behavioral needs,” says Finka.
When it comes to people’s ages and personality types, those who were older and ranked higher for neuroticism were the volunteers most likely to hold and hold cats more, while extroverts tended initiate contact more often and pet the cats least favorite areas. ‘ body.
On the other hand, people ranked higher for agreeableness were less likely to touch cats’ most sensitive areas. Additionally, those who reported having formal experience working with cats were found to be more “cat-friendly” in terms of sensitivity to animal wishes.
The idea behind the study is not to shame anyone for the way they handle cats, but to encourage interactions that are beneficial to felines, by experienced cat owners and new. Battersea have put together a cat care themed animation which you can see here.
There are also implications for finding new homes for cats – and the message is that people who discover friendship with cats can learn to be as good carers as those with years of experience.
“It’s important to note that within shelters we also need to avoid discriminating against potential adopters without previous experience as cat owners, because with the right support they can become fantastic cat sitters,” says Finka. .
The research has been published in Scientific reports.