People unfamiliar with the ways of cats often call them "antisocial." But are they? Sure, they're usually aloof and behave very differently than dogs overall, but do those qualities make them social outcasts?
The doctors at East Shore's Veterinary Services, cited below, explain that the domestication of cats and dogs has been quite different and may explain the difference in the sociability of the two animals.
"Unlike dogs, cats were domesticated gradually and a lot later than dogs. Moreover, cats didn't depend entirely on humans as their canine counterparts. They needed to protect barns from pests in order to get some food. As a result, they've eaten their prey and didn't have to learn social strategies to get food from their owners as dogs had to."
However, an article on IFLAScience, cited below, suggests a cat's aloofness might not be due to his species; it might be you. Researchers at Oregon State University gathered 46 cats (half were pets, half were shelter cats) for two experiments to see how well they coped with human company. The results, recently published in the journal Behavioral Processes, suggests cats might not deserve the ‘antisocial’ label. The cats preferred spending time with an enthusiastic and attentive person over a person who ignored them. But isn't that a human trait as well? We all know cranky people and also people who are kind. So, with whom would most of us rather spend time?
"In both groups, we found [cats] spent significantly more time with people who were paying attention to them than people who were ignoring them," lead author Kristyn Vitale said.
Not surprisingly, shelter cats spent more time seeking human attention than the pets, an important consideration when seeking to make a new cat part of your family.
"This may reflect a greater need for attention, a result of a tougher upbringing, or that life in a shelter makes them less wary towards unfamiliar people," the study authors say. Like other animals and people, cat behavior is influenced by a cat’s past experiences.
According to IFLScience, "feline sociability exists on a spectrum. But, scientific evidence aside, it is unlikely they will lose their reputation for being haughty antisocial jerks anytime soon." It seems that despite research indicating cats are not at fault for ‘antisocial’ behavior, the question of whether cats are inherently antisocial will continue to be asked for quite a while. General assumptions about cat behavior and personality will take time to change.
If you have an older cat or adopt one from a shelter, his social graces may already be limited. But if you acquire a kitten, be sure to expose him to different people and encourage everyone to hold and pet him. Be sure you have frequent cuddle and snuggle sessions with your kitten, and he should grow up loving the attention of humans. Certain kinds of cat behavior can be encouraged.
With an adult cat, a bit of effort on your part could make him more friendly. Experts at East Shore's Veterinary Services recommended that "to improve the existing bond with your adult cat, you may also want to shower her with attention, as the study suggests. Nothing is more powerful for their social skills than sharing your love whenever you can."
Quote to remember: "If cats could talk, they wouldn’t” -Anonymous
East Shore's Veterinary Services
"Are Cats Really Antisocial?"
"Cats Are Not Inherently Antisocial Creatures. It’s Just You"