Researchers at the University of California Davis’ Animal Welfare Epidemiology Lab are looking for ways to help humans build positive relationships with cats. One way they hope to do that is by studying humans’ understanding of their cats’ behavior. Specifically, the researchers hope to investigate how cat owners perceive feline socialization, as well as how much weight owners tend to give their cats’ body language.
Part of the challenge in understanding feline socializing is a relative lack of opportunity to do so. While dog owners often take their furry friends to dog parks, on family trips, or even to brunch on a restaurant patio, cats’ outside-the-home social experiences aren’t so dynamic. Most cat owners agree that cats tend to avoid change; taking them outside of their home environment (I’ll be the first to say) can be jarring for everyone involved, especially when the secondary location is as unpleasant as a vet or a groomer. As a result, cat owners typically only get to see their beloved kitties interact with humans or other cats in a couple of environments. (I take my cat for walks on a regular basis) – Ed
This makes it difficult to intentionally raise kittens with positive social “skills,” according to project researcher Jennifer Link, who spoke with Gizmodo about the study. “In short: a well-socialized kitten becomes a well-adjusted adult, and we’d like to do whatever we can to ensure the creation of more well-socialized kittens,” Link said. “We hope that our study will be a good first step in that process.”
The Animal Welfare Epidemiology Lab previously conducted a study that appears to focus on casual feline infighting. The study asked volunteers who owned exactly two cats to watch cat videos online—the dream, as far as research participation goes—and provide commentary on the animals’ body language. The researchers were particularly interested in determining whether owners could tell when cats were about to lash out at one another. The lab is still wrapping up that study while kicking off the new one.
Those who are interested in volunteering for the study can fill out an introductory questionnaire here. The lab hopes to obtain about 2,500 volunteer responses and to have reached a conclusion within the next 12 to 18 months.