Scientists from France may have found the most effective way to call an unfamiliar cat. The results of this study were presented by scientists from the Paris Nanterre University’s Laboratory of Compared Ethology and Cognition under the leadership of Charlotte de Mouzon, writes Gizmodo.
They found that cats living in a local cat cafe respond most quickly to a stranger when the stranger uses vocal and visual cues to get their attention. Cats also felt more stressed when the person completely ignored them.
De Mouzon has been studying the intricacies of the interaction between cats and people for a long time. For example, last fall she and her team published an article in which they suggested that domestic cats can easily distinguish the voice of their owner from the voice of a stranger. Also, animals can often understand when their owners are addressing them.
In a new study published in the journal Animals, de Mouzon wanted to better understand how cats respond to human ways of interacting with them.
“When we communicate with them, what is more important to them? Is it the visual cues or the vocal cues? That was the starting question of our research,” she explained.
12 cats who live in a cat cafe helped in the research. First, the scientist got them used to her presence, and then “played” different scenarios with them. De Mouzon interacted with the animals in different ways: she called them, but did not gesture; made gestures, but did not speak to cats; spoke and gestured at the same time; did not do either.
It turned out that the animals most often approached the scientist when she simultaneously gestured and voiced to them. But what was more surprising was that the cats responded faster only to visual signals than to vocal ones. De Mouzon noted that owners usually like to talk to their pets in a “cat voice.” So they decided that cafe cats would respond better to vocalization. Scientists now suggest that these benefits may be different for cats interacting with strangers than they were for their owners.
Another finding was that cats wag their tails more often in voice-cued scenarios, and more so when they were completely ignored. De Mouzon explained that tail wagging is further evidence that cats are more receptive to visual or combined signals from strangers. And they can feel particularly stressed when they are ignored because of the inappropriateness of the situation.
The scientist also added that the cats were placed in a room where they interacted with a person who had previously played with them and now completely ignored them. Just like humans, cats can also feel uncomfortable when they can’t easily read the intentions of someone else in the room.
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