California scientists ask U.S. volunteers who live with cats to participate in a new research project. The study will survey owners about pet behavior and their knowledge of training methods. The group’s primary goal is to help cats — especially cats — and their people to improve their healthy relationships.
The work was done by scientists from the Animal Welfare Epidemiology Lab at the University of California Davis. Last fall, the team hired volunteers with exactly two cats to watch cat videos online as part of a project to learn how owners can better learn animal body language. They were curious if the owners could detect when the cats were about to scold their furry roommates.
That project is still ongoing, but the lab is embarking on a new research project. In this regard, they want to examine the social status of cats through their owners’ lens, as well as how vital their owners are in different aspects of the cat’s social behavior.
“Socialization here means introducing an animal to young people, places, and things. This includes everything from kitten programs (often referred to as “cat nursery”) to older cats with their owner,” project researcher Jennifer Link, a Ph.D. student at the lab, told Gizmodo.
Link notes that newly adopted dogs and their owners regularly participate in dedicated social programs. But the same cannot be said of the families of cat owners. Other reasons for this discrepancy may include those cat owners who are not interested in these programs, can afford them, or do not know they exist in the first place. One of the project’s main focuses will be determining why so few families attend kindergarten.
“Once we have gathered all the answers, we can share our findings with shelters, cat owners, and the community, so that we can hopefully make cat and cataracts accessible to all who want to reach them,” he said.
Perhaps surprisingly, learning about cats and their interactions with humans is not as easy as it is with dogs. For example, cats can be very anxious when outside their usual environment, which means that their behavior in the lab may be very different from their normal behavior. So home-based research and science projects can fill these gaps in research. And this research, in particular, can help scientists like Link find the best ways to improve human relationships from an early age.
“In short: a cat that is accustomed to living well becomes a well-rounded adult, and we would like to do whatever we can to ensure the creation of healthy cats. We hope that our study will be a good first step in that process,” said Link.
The team is looking for about 2,500 survey responses, with an eye for something that will show the public within the next 12 to 18 months. Eligible volunteers (current U.S. cat owners) can register here, and the survey should not take more than 10 to 15 minutes to complete.