Indifferent Cats

Last Sunday, I got up ridiculously early to watch the Australian Grand Prix.  Unfortunately for me, I settled on the sofa with the duvet out the spare room thinking that it was lights out at 5am rather than the 6am it actually was.  So I watched an hour of build up, about the first 15 laps (I saw no pit stops) and was woken up by a German screaming Italian over his radio.

The other person who didn’t get why I did it was Moo, my cat.  Yes, I know he’s not a person but that was artistic license. When I get up, he’s usually waiting for me at the games room door.  I don’t let him in to “my” end of the house at night because he’s not a subtle cat when it comes to trying not to wake me up.

I opened the door to see him trotting round the air hockey table, tail in the air and purring his head off.  Strange behaviour, because it indicated that he might actually like me.

Cats, and not least Moo, can usually seem fairly indifferent to their surroundings but a new study coming out of the University of Oregon actually found that this is an act.  “Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen,” and all that.

The researchers found that cats actually prefer the company of humans to catnip, food or the smell of fellow cats.

The researchers studied 55 cats – 23 were pets and 22 from animal shelters.  The study started with two and a half hours solitary confinement in which the researchers ascertained the cats’ favourite food (chicken, tuna or cat treats), toy (feather, fuzzy mouse with shaker or springy “cat dancer” wire with cardboard rolls to chase), scent (gerbil, catnip or another cat) and type of human interaction (baby talk, petting or playing with a GoCat Da Bird feather toy).

The cats were then put through a “free operant preference assessment”.  Basically, they were put on a cross (no, they weren’t crucified) at the centre of their four established preferences and they were monitored to see which was their favourite of the four.

Apparently a number of cats “didn’t get the hang” of the experiment.  I read that as being them lying down and having a nap.  Of the 38 that could be bothered entertaining the scientists, half of them spent the most time with the human.  Fourteen cats went for the food, four chose the toys and one decided to throw a curve ball and went for the scented cloth.

Researchers said:

The idea that cats have not been domesticated long enough to show preference toward human interaction is not supported by these data. Although it is often thought cats prefer solitude to social interaction, the data of this study indicate otherwise.

Or… Could it just have been that the cats noticed that the food, toys and scented cloths were probably provided to them by the humans?!  The cats aren’t indifferent, they’re closer to ambivalent towards their humans – show humans affection and they give you what you need.

Moo Cat certainly wasn’t saying no to his breakfast at 4.55 on Sunday morning.

Some kinds of love
Marguerita told Tom
Between thought and expression lies a lifetime
Situations arise because of the weather
and no kinds of love
are better than others

Some kinds of love
Margueirta told Tom
like a dirty French novel
the absured courts the vulgar
and some kinds of love
the possibilites are endless
and for me to miss one
would seem to be groundless

I head what you said
Margueritat told Tom
And of course you’re a bore
But at that you’re not charmless
for a bore is a straight line
that finds a wealth in division
and some kinds of love
are mistaken for vision

Put jelly on your shoulder
Let us do what you fear most
That from which you recoil
but which still makes your eyes moist

Put jelly on your shoulder
lie down upon the carpet
between thought and expression
let us now kiss the culprit

I don’t know just what it’s all about
Put on your red pajamas and find out.

Some Kinda Love by Velvet Underground

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