Do you have a cute feline roommate? Do you like to hug and play with him? Well, even if you are experienced in taking care of your pet, it is possible to pet your cat wrongly and this could affect its behavior during interactions.
Cat care researchers looked at different people’s personalities and previous experiences with cats and studied how these people approached and interacted with previously unfamiliar cats.
Their findings are published in a paper in Scientific Reportsthe study was a collaboration between scientists from Nottingham Trent University, the University of Nottingham and Battersea Dogs and Cats Homes, all in England.
What does it mean to pet your cat wrong?
Previous research have shown that the best way to increase a cat’s affection and reduce its aggression towards you is to let the pet choose when it would like to be petted. The secret to achieving this is to touch your cat less often, only touch her favorite areas (cheeks, under her chin and at the base of her ears) and pay attention to her behavioral reactions and body language.
In the new study, 120 participants spent 5 minutes in the Battersea cat shelter, where they interacted with three healthy, unneutered cats they did not know. Some of the participants were asked to allow the cats to come to them when they wanted and not to go after the kittens. The others were allowed to interact with the kittens as they normally would at home.
A study with surprising conclusions
In a surprising turn of events, people who rated themselves as “knowledgeable and experienced” when it comes to cats were more likely to interact with and touch cats’ bodies in ways they would find uncomfortable.
These interactions included touching the belly and the base of the tail. People who lived longer with a cat were more likely to place their hand on the top of the head and move it down to the base or tip of the tail, which is not the preferred petting technique of cats. Experienced owners were less likely to give the cat the choice and control over petting.
In other words, even if you’ve owned a feline for a long time, you’re probably petting your cat wrong.
The influence of personality traits on cat petting
Study participants also completed a questionnaire to assess their personality and were assigned one of the Big Five personality traits: openness, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism, notes IFL Science.
It was found that older members of the cohort and those who scored higher on neuroticism attempted to hold and restrain the cats more.
The authors suggest that the behavior of the older age group could be explained by their traditional view of animals, as viewing animals as stakeholders in human-cat interactions is a rather recent concept.
Those with higher neuroticism scores appeared to use cat restraint as a form of control.
Those classified as extraverted were more likely to make contact with the cat and touch areas where the cat was less likely to be petted.
The people most likely to be cat-friendly were those who scored higher on “kindness,” because they were less likely to touch areas where cats don’t like to be petted, and therefore , had a more empathetic approach.
Also, people who had formal experience working with cats were the most likely to let cats take control and be more sensitive to the needs of pets.
Even if you’re experienced, it’s still possible to pet your cat wrong
“Our findings suggest that certain characteristics that we might assume would make someone good at interacting with cats (how knowledgeable they say they are, their experiences of owning cats, and being older) should not should always be considered reliable indicators of a person’s suitability to adopt certain cats, especially those with specific handling or behavioral needs,” said Dr. Lauren Finka.
In conclusion, it should be remembered that we should not judge whether or not someone may be suitable to adopt an animal based on experience alone. It’s possible to be an experienced owner and pet your cat wrong, but it’s also possible for an inexperienced owner to be very pet friendly.