The quality of being sociable: The influence of human attentional state, population, & human familiarity on domestic cat sociability

Vitale, KR, & Udell, MAR. (2019) The quality of being sociable: The influence of human attentional state, population, and human familiarity on domestic cat sociability. Behavioural Processes: 158, 11-17. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2018.10.026 

 

Link to publication 

Abstract

Two experiments were conducted to assess the influence of human attentional state, population, and human familiarity on domestic cat sociability. Sociability behaviors included duration of time in proximity and contact with the human and the frequency of meow vocalizations. Human attentional state influenced cat behavior, with cats spending significantly more time in proximity with the attentive human in both the pet (U(22) = 389, Z = -2.72, P = 0.007) and shelter groups (F(44) = 15.34, P = 0.0003). Cat population influenced sociability and shelter cats spent more time in proximity with the inattentive unfamiliar human as compared to pet cats (U(44) = 91, Z = 3.8, P = 0.0001) Additionally compared to pet cats, more individuals in the shelter cat group meowed at least once during the unfamiliar human inattentive phase (Fisher’s exact test, P = 0.02). Human familiarity did not significantly influence pet cat sociability behaviors. Overall, a wide range of sociability scores was seen, indicating individual variation is an important consideration in cat social behavior. Future research in this area will predict conditions under which strong cat-human bonds form and establish a more comprehensive scientific understanding of cat behavior.

Highlights

  • Relatively little scientific research has been conducted on cat-human social behavior.
  • Cats are facultatively social animals that display flexibility in social behavior.
  • Human attentional state and cat population influenced cat sociability behaviors.
  • Human familiarity did not influence pet cat sociability behaviors.
  • Clear individual variation in sociability scores was noted.
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