Just because cats are stereotyped to be brats that just don’t care for humans like your dog might, doesn’t mean it’s true.
A recent study, published the 24th of March, 2017, suggests that your cat will choose you over his favorite toy or treat. Cat lovers alike may already have suspected this, depending on how affectionate your cat might personally be.
Even though cats are a very popular household pet (3.2 million cats are adopted each year according to the ASPCA), according to Scientific American, cats preferences haven’t really been studied. That is, at least, in comparison to the study on dogs …and giant pandas. According to the aforementioned article, scientists have studied the preferences of giant pandas more than they have for cats.
Kristyn R. Vitale Shreve, a PhD candidate and cat lover herself, and her team gathered up 50 cats in total. 25 of them were pets, and the other half of them were sheltered.
“Adult cats from two populations (pet and shelter) were presented with three stimuli within each of the following four categories: human social interaction, food, toy, and scent,” says the abstract of the study. Shreve and her team then recorded how much time each cat spent with each of the presented stimuli. From there, “the single most-preferred stimulus from each of the four categories were simultaneously presented in a final session to determine each cat’s most-preferred stimulus overall.”
The study found that each cat did have its own preference, but overall, they seemed to much prefer human interaction above all else. This was true for both category — the cats that were pets, and the ones who were sheltered. Their second favorite stimulus was food. Go figure.
All this being said, this is only one study on the matter and Shreve acknowledges that. “Future research can examine the use of preferred stimuli as enrichment in applied settings and assess individual cats’ motivation to work for their most-preferred stimulus as a measure of reinforcer efficacy,” she says.