Pets: The Truth About Cats

Cat language

Can cats talk? The short answer is no, but they may be better communicators than many realize.

Gabriela Smith of the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna, Austria, is one of several researchers working on they can talk Participate, a citizen science project that tests the communication skills of pets, including cats. Participants observe whether the animals can learn to press buttons to convey simple but specific messages. “Hitting the ‘exit’ button means they want to go out, while pressing the ‘water’ button alerts them that something is wrong with the water,” explains Smith.

Compared to dogs, communication with cats is much less studied, also because cats are more difficult to deal with: they are less willing to bribe treats. Hence Citizen Science’s approach: “There’s an advantage to studying cats at home, where they’re behaving more naturally,” says Smith.

So far about 300 cats have been registered for the project, which is still in its infancy. But if cats can really learn to press the right buttons, this raises another question: What do they understand about what they do? “There doesn’t have to be an intent to connect,” says Smith. A cat could easily learn that pressing a certain button correlates with opening a door, without realizing that this was only because the human got the message.

In a study published in November 2020, Popovic and colleagues led Proof of thatThat African wild cats may have already migrated as far as Poland 8,000 years ago — or that they interbred with Eurasian cats, which in turn picked up some of their distinctive DNA. maybe Study results from 2018 She explains that cats in central Europe carry some of the genetic markers found in cats domesticated 2,000 years ago, before the Romans. The wild ancestors of domestic cats are referred to as African wildcats or Middle Eastern wildcats, depending on who you ask. The confusion arises because the various species and subspecies of wild cats have all interbred to some degree and continue to do so to this day.

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Only in the last 200 years have humans begun selectively breeding cats. However, the focus was on visual rather than practical considerations. Most cats still mate as they like—unlike dogs, which have been bred for centuries to perform specific jobs, whether they’re excellent for hunting or as a purse. And unlike dogs, most cats still roam outdoors doing their natural behaviors like hunting. Compared to other pets, cats can largely determine their daily routine on their own. “Cats are semi-domesticated,” Lyons says. “If all the cats were released, they would probably be fine because they would kill birds, mice, rats, and lizards in order to survive.” So in the end, adapting to humans is not important to cats.

Of course, that doesn’t stop us from humanizing them to a great extent. Not only do dog owners talk to their pets in a similarly high pitch to infants and young children. this means that Study published in 2022 Written by Charlotte de Mouzon of the University of Paris-Nanterre and colleagues. “We recorded how people talk to their cats,” she says. Everyone had used baby talk for their loved ones.

Cats communicate when they want to

Are we deceiving ourselves? Maybe not. If you study cats’ behavior closely, you’ll find that they adapt to us more than we realize. “There are a lot of stereotypes about cat behavior,” says Christine Vitali of Unity College in Maine. However, many of these ideas have not been confirmed by current studies. For example, cats know when people are talking to them. in October 2022 study De Mouzon and her colleagues recorded cat owners speaking in a high, natural tone. They also picked up on strangers who said the same thing. When the cats heard their owners talking loudly, they changed their behavior: They looked around, became silent, or moved their ears and tails. However, they did not respond to the cries of the strangers who spoke in loud voices. “They don’t see all people as equal,” de Mouzon concludes.

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A group of Japanese researchers have also made a number of surprising discoveries in recent years. In 2019, a study led by Atsuko Saito at the University of Tokyo found, Domestic cats know their names. Their ears and tails move differently when they hear recordings of their owners saying their name compared to other words that sound alike. Your cat will likely ignore you at home if you call her. “Cats are not designed to respond to human cues,” Saito said at the time. At that time, New Scientist. “They communicate with people and when Your presence I want.”

cat in the box

All cats love to sit in boxes. This does not only apply to domestic cats, But also for big cats like tigers. Just: why are they doing this?

It makes sense when you think about feline behavior, says Gabriela Smith of the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna. The cardboard boxes apply gentle pressure to the cat on all sides, which is like the feeling of a kitten snuggling with its littermates. In addition, cats are predators that will ambush their prey, the researcher explains. “Maybe they are drawn to boxes because they can hide in them and sneak into things.”

So far fine, but why do cats like to sit on scraps of paper or flat, box-like surfaces? Cat owners took to Twitter in 2017 to have fun gluing outlines of shapes to their floors and posting pictures of their cats instantly sitting inside. hash mark # Cat Square trending, and the phrase “If I fit in, sit down” has become an aphorism.

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Four years later, Smith and her colleagues discovered In the citizen science experiment, Cats even sit in squares, which is actually just an optical illusion (a reference to the famous Canessa Triangle, where certain shapes and patterns in the background allow people to see a triangle that isn’t really there). “We’re still trying to figure out why.”

Charlotte de Mouzon of the University of Paris Nanterre suspects that cats also sit on all kinds of square objects for practical reasons: “When you bring home something new, cats have to spread their scent on it in order to distinguish it,” she says. This helps them feel safe in their surroundings. “And sitting on something is a way for cats to spread their scent.”

Other research indicates that cats respond to their owners in different ways. In 2021, the Japanese team, this time led by Saho Takagi of Kyoto University, managed to show those cats a mental “map” of where their owners are in space, by listening to their voices. Recorded sounds are also played from various loudspeakers, as if a human being had suddenly moved from one side of the room to the other, The cats moved their ears And he looked around – apparently surprised. “They listen to people carefully,” says Takagi.

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