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If You Belong To A Cat, Scientists Want To Hear From You

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California scientists ask WE volunteers who live with cats participate in a new research project. The will survey owners about their pet’s behaviors and knowledge of training methods. The larger goal of the team is to help cats, especially kittens, and humans better build healthy relationships with each other.

The work is being conducted by scientists from the Animal Welfare Epidemiology Laboratory at the University of California, Davis. Last fall, the team recruited volunteers who owned exactly two cats watching cat videos on the internet, part of a project to study how well owners could read feline body language. They were particularly interested in whether owners could tell when the cats were about to go after their furry housemates.

This project is still ongoing, but the lab is now starting work on a new study. This timethey want to explore cat socialization seen through the lens of their owners, as well as how much importance owners place on different aspects of cat socialization.

“Here, socialization refers to the introduction of the animal to new people, places and objects. This includes everything from kitten socialization programs (often referred to as ‘kitten kindergarten’) to adult cats that go on adventures with their owners,” project researcher Jennifer Link, a PhD student at the lab, told Gizmodo. .

Link notes that newly adopted dogs and their owners regularly attend dedicated socialization programs. But the same cannot be said for families with cats. Some reasons for this discrepancy could include that cat owners are not interested in these programs; that they cannot afford or access them; or that they just don’t know they exist in the first place. Another key objective of the project will be to try to understand why so few families attend kitten kindergarten.

“Once we have collected all the answers, we can share our findings with shelters, cat behaviorists and the public, to hopefully make cat and kitten socialization more accessible to anyone who wants it,” she said.


Cheddar “Chiz” Cara, the world’s worst lab subject.
Photo: Ed Cara

Not surprisingly, studying cats and their interactions with humans isn’t as easy to do as it is with dogs. For example, cats can become very anxious when outside of their normal environment, which means that their behavior in a lab is likely to be noticeably different from how they usually act.. So the polls and citizen science projects that can be conducted at home can fill these research gaps. And this study in particular could help scientists like Link find the best ways to improve cat-human bonds at an early age.

“In short: a well-socialized kitten becomes a well-suitable adult, and we would like to do whatever we can to ensure the creation of more well-socialized kittens. We hope our study will be a good first step in this process,” Link said.

The team is looking to get around 2,500 survey responses in total, with the goal of having something to show the public in the next 12-18 months. Eligible volunteers (current cat owners in the US) can sign up hereand the survey should take no more than 10-15 minutes to complete.

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