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Experimental Analysis of Human-Cat Interactions During First Encounters

  • I.E.A.P./I.E.T., Inst. for applied Ethology and Animal Psychology

Abstract and Figures

The goal of our study was to describe tween a human and a cat and to determine the social behavior during the first encounter beinfluence of the sex of the cat, individuality of the cat, activity state of the person, and person type on the cat's behavior; and the influence of the age and sex of the human partner (person type) on his/her behavior. Nineteen colony cats encountered 240 unfamiliar test persons in a standardized one-cat/one-person situation. In half of the encounters, the behavior of the cat was recorded (A experiments); during a first five-minute phase (Ph 1), the test person was not allowed to interact with the cat; during the second five-minute phase (Ph 2), he/she was allowed to behave without any restrictions. In the other half of the encounters (B experiments), the behavior of the human partner was recorded, and the test person was allowed to behave freely from the start for the duration of five minutes. The influence of the factors listed above was tested by analyses of variance and t-tests. Cats show an enormous individual variation in their behavior. Neither their sex nor the age-sex class of the partner influences their behavior nearly as much as their own individuality. The activity state of the test person (reading a book versus interacting freely) influences the behavior of the cat with respect to most of the parameters observed. Human behavior toward the cat is influenced by the person's age (adults versus children from six to ten years of age) and, to a lesser extent, by the person's sex. The first body contact is a key event and occurs more quickly in the dyadic situation than when the person is looking at a book, since the human partner usually initiates social interactions and motivates the cat to accelerate coming into contact. In addition to the speed and chronology of contact initiation, proximity and behavior regulating the distance between the partners are useful measures for describing human-cat interactions in different social contexts. Single behavioral elements of the cat and the human also may be used as indicators of the character of the relationship.
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COMMENTARY Some Reflections on the Utopian Commonwealth
of Beavers
Boria Sax 76
REVIEWSAND RESEARCHREPORTS Experimental Analysis of Human-Cat Interactions
During First Encounters
Claudia Mertens
and Oennis C. Turner 83
Sacrificial Symbolism in Animal Experimentation:
Object or Pet?
Arnold B. Arluke 98
Attachment to Companion Animals Among Older
Pet Owners
Lorann Stellones, Martin B. Marx,
Thomas F. Gerritv, and Timothy P. johnson
Pet Ownership and Nonownership Among Elderly
in Arizona
F. Ellen Netting, Cindy C. Wilson,
and Charles Fruge
NEWS AND ANALYSIS Pet Demographics-USA 133
Ferrets: Domestic or Wild? 133
Delta Society President Honored 133
Society for Companion Animal Studies-
New Director 134
Jill of All Trades: Mistress of None 134
Research Project Funded 134
New Center Established at Liverpool University 134
Meeting Announcements-Call to Presenters 134
Dog Eating in Korea 135
Claudia Mertens and Dennis C. Turner
Abstract. The goal of our study was to describe
socisl behavior du ring the first encounter be-
tween ahuman and acat and to determine the
influence of the sex of the cat, individuality of
the cat, activity state of the person, and person
type on the cat's behavior; and the influence of
the age and sex of the human partner
type) on his/her behavior.
Nineteen colony cats encountered 240 unfa-
miliar test persons in astandardized one-
cat/one-person situation. In half of the encoun-
ters, the behavior of the cat was recorded
experiments); during
first five-minute phase
the test person was not allowed to inter-
act with the cat; during the second five-minute
phase (Ph 2), he/she was allowed to behave
without any restrictions. In the other half of the
experiments), the behavior of the
human partner was recorded, and the test per-
son was allowed to behave freely from the start
for the duration of five minutes. The influence of
the factors listed above was tested by analyses
of varian
and t-tests.
Cats show an enormous individual variation in
Ethology and Wildlife Research, Institute of Zoology, University
of Zurich-lrchel, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.
This study was supparted financially by Efferns Ber-
atung für Kleintierhaltung, Zurich, and the Swiss
National 5cience Foundation (grant numbers 3.338.82
and 3.247.85 for cat-colony maintenancel. We thank
K. Geering and B. Hämmerli far assistance with the
experiments and for making the video records,
U. Kuster for her care of the cats in the colony, and
R.Schröter, D.V.M., for looking after the health of the
ExperimentalAnalysisof Human-CatInteractions
their behavior. Neither their sex nor the age-sex
dass of the partner influences their behavior
nearly as much as their own individuality. The ec-
tivity state of the test person (reading
book ver-
sus interacting freely) influences the behavior of
the cat with respect to most of the parameters ob-
served. Human behavior toward the cat is in-
fluenced by the person's age (adults versus chll-
dren from six to ten years of age) and, to alesser
extent, by the person's sex.
The first body contact is akey event and oc-
curs more quickly in the dyadic situation than
when the person is looking at abook, since the
human partner usually initiates socie I interac-
tions and motivates the cat to accelerate coming
into contact. In addition to the speed and
chronology of contact initiation, proximity and
behavior regulating the distance between the
partners are useful measures for describing
human-cat interactions in different sociel con-
texts. Single behavioral elements of the cat and
the human also may be used as indicators of the
character of the relationship.
The popularity of the domestic cat (Felis s. catus)
as a pet is increasing all over the world (Messent
and Horsfield, 1985), and many studies of the
cat's natural behavior and ecology have appeared
in recent years (see Turner and Bateson, 1988, for
a review). Quite a lot of work has been done on
questions of ontogeny and behavioral develop-
ment (see Martin and Bateson, 1988; Deag, Man-
ning, and Lawrence, 1988), sociaI organization
(see Leyhausen, 1979, 1988; Kerby and Mac-
donald, 1988; Macdonald et al., 1987), and
ecology and predation (see Liberg and Sande
1988; Fitzgerald, 1988; Turner and Meister,
1988). Apart from same work on the correction of
behavioral disturbances affecting the human-cat
relationship (Yoith, 1983; Hart and Hart, 1985),
ethological studies of interactions between cats
and humans are rare.
ANTHROZOÖ5, Volume 11,Number 2
The main motive for studies of human-pet re-
lationships has been and still is the assessment of
the beneficial or therapeutic value of the pet to a
human (Levinson, 1969, 1978; Corson, O'Leary-
Corson, and Gwynne, 1975; Friedmann et al.,
1984; McCulioch, 1983). If pets are to be used as
therapists and companions, it is essential to have
a picture of the development and dynamics of the
human-pet relationship, including a consideration
of the animal partner with its species-specific
needs and behavior. The analysis of human atti-
tudes toward and expectations of their pets (Gutt-
mann, 1981; Kellert, 1984) and of questionnaires
or interviews of pet owners is only one approach
to understanding these interspecific relationships.
Description of interactions and causal and func-
tional analysis of the behavior of both partners
are equally important and, indeed, the only
means to consider the animal side of the relation-
Most studies on human-pet interactions and
the value of a pet to the owner have been done
with respect to dogs (Bergler, 1986; Filiatre, Mil-
lot, and Montagner, 1986). Study of human-cat
relationships with emphasis on the cat is very re-
cent (see Karsh and Turner, 1988; Meier and
Turner, 1985; Feaver, Mendl, and Bateson, 1986;
Turner et al., 1986), except for the early studies of
Wilson, Warren, and Abbott (1965) and Collard
(1967). The present study describes interactions
between both partners during the first stages of a
human-cat relationship. that is, during first en-
A detailed description of social behavior is the
first important step toward an ethological under-
standing of relationships. The next step is an
analysis of factors influencing these interactions.
Since these factors were unknown, we tested a
set of potential parameters that we hypothesized
might influence the quality and/or quantity of cat
or human behavior observed. Factors suspected
to influence the cat were the sex of the animal,
the individuality of the cat, the age and sex of the
human partner, and the activity of the person. By
individuality of the cat, we mean the consistent
individual differences among cats, irrespective of
the identity of the human partner. The factors hy-
pothesized to influence human behavior toward
the cat were the age and sex of the person
son type).
We view this study as an initial approach to
ANTHROZOÖS, Volume 11,Number 2
analyzing the very complex human-cat relation-
ship ethologically; therefore, the experimental de-
sign has the character of a pilot study and in-
cludes a number of dependent and independent
variables that are not examined in greater detail,
Experimental Design
We arranged 240 first encounters between a cat
and a person in a standardized situation.
Nineteen cats and 240 persons were involved. All
encounters took place in the observation room of
the cat colony at the University of Zurich. and
each was a replicate for one of two types of ex-
periment, A and B. We systematically alternated A
and B experiments. Both experiment types were
essentially the same; however, in the A experi-
ments, only the cat's behavior was recorded,
while, in the B experiments, only the human's be-
havior was of interest. We therefore secured two
independent sets of data. Experiment A lasted ten
minutes, subdivided into two phases of five
minutes each (Ph 1 and Ph 2); experiment B
lasted on Iy five minutes and corresponded quali-
tatively to the second half of experiment A (Ph 2).
The observation room (3.5 by 4 meters) was
furnished with two chairs, a table, a large carpet,
books, play objects for the cat (plastic mice, balls
of different material), a litter box, and a resting
shelf. The test person was seated in the test room
before the experiment started. At the start, the cat
was let into the room through a remote-controlled
sliding door. Just prior to this, the cat was placed
in a transport box, wh ich could be attached to
the "catentrance." When the sliding door was
opened, most cats left the box and entered the
observation room. Cats that did not leave the box
spontaneously or reentered it were still within
reach of an active test person. The distance be-
tween the cat entrance and chair of the test per-
son was 3.5 meters, almost the maximum dis-
tance possible in the room.
In an A experiment, the test person was in-
structed to look at a book and not to react to the
cat, regardless of what
did, for the first five
minutes (Ph 1) and to behave freely and without
restriction during the second five minutes (Ph 2).
The beginning of Ph 2 was signaled to the test
person by a knock on the one-way window
Claudia Mertens and Dennis C. Turner
through whieh aetivity was observed and video-
In a B experiment, the test person had to re-
main seated until the sliding door of the eat en-
trance opened but, other than this, was eom-
pletely free to do whatever he/she wanted from
the start
From the A experiments, we obtained reeords
of eat behavior in two different situations: in Ph 1,
the eat aeted spontaneously, not as areaction to
human social interaetions; in Ph 2, the eat and
the human partner aeted and reaeted in a true dy-
adie relationship. Comparison of eat behavior in
these two situations provides an estimate of
human influenee on eats' behavior. From the B
experiments, we reeorded the humans' behavior
during "normal" first encounters where both part-
ners aet and reaet. We assumed that human be-
havior in the B experiments and in Ph 2 of the A
experiments would be the same and that ehanges
in eat behavior from Ph 1 to Ph 2 in the A experi-
ments were due to behavior of the human part-
ner, as recorded in the B experiments. The only
eomparable parameter, whieh was reeorded in
both A and B experiments, was the distanee be-
tween eat and test person. The frequeney of three
out of four distanee dasses (0, 1, and 3) was
eompared for A (Ph 2) and B experiments, and no
signifieant differenee eould be found (t-tests: p
.1 for eaeh distanee). This supports our assump-
tion that the situation in Ph 2 of A and that in B
as a whole are more or less the same and that
neither the eat nor the test person are influeneed
by Ph 1 in Ph 2.
Animal Subjects
The 19 eats used for this study (10 males, 9
females) are eommon domestie mixtures and
belong to the eat eolony of the university. They
were all born in the eolony within one month
from seven different mothers, sired by one of two
fathers, and raised in the same way. Until the age
of one year, they lived mueh of the time in
mother groups, but they all knew eaeh other,
sinee they met frequently in a large outdoor en-
dosure during the day. Before these experiments
started and for teehniea I reasons, the animals
were rearranged into three groups of different size
(10, 5, and 4 cats). For the duration of the experi-
ments, these groups remained stable, but the eats
Experimental Analysis of Human-Cat Inleractions
continued to meet eaeh other in the outdoor en-
dosure for several hours eaeh day.
At the time of the experiments, the eats were
between 15 and 24 months old. All males were
eastrated; four of the nine females were neutered.
All knew the observation room weil, having had
aeeess to it earlier on. Even so, eaeh eat partici-
pating in an experiment had an opportunity to re-
inspeet the room during the two hours preeeding
the test.
As kittens, the experimental animals had been
handled by familiar and unfamiliar persons but
never by ehildren. Sinee half of the test persons
were to be ehildren, we tried to eompensate for
this by introducing eight ehildren (four boys and
four girls) to the eats on several oeeasions during
the two rnonths prior to the tests. We then as-
sumed that, at the first experimental eneounter
with a test ehild, eaeh eat was already used to
Eaeh eat inleraeted with a total of 12 (in a few
eases, 13)' persons and participated in six (or
seven) A and six (or seven) B experiments. For
eaeh experiment type, the eats encountered the
following persons: one per age/sex dass (i.e., one
man, one woman, one boy, and one girl) plus
one additional person per age dass (i.e., one man
or one woman and one boy or one girl).
Human Subjects
The 240 voluntary test persons participated in
one experiment eaeh. These persons were re-
eruited partly from sehools (ehildren and their
pa ren ts) and partly by an appeal on television
(adults and children). All test persons had to be
experieneed with eats, and 90% of all partici-
pants owned cats at the time of our experiments.
Thus, the human test population was a nonrepre-
sentative sampie of Swiss people but a repre-
sentative sampie of eat owners.
Half of the test persons were adults (at least 18
years old, no upper age llrnlt), and half were ehil-
dren between 6 and 10 years of age. Demo-
graphie and socioeconomie parameters of the test
persons were not controlled or analyzed, though
they were partly noted. For statistieal analyses, we
eould use the experiments of 60 men, 56 women,
55 boys, and 60 girls. Eaeh age-sex dass was
divided into two equal groups, eaeh partieipating
in one of the two types of experiment (A or B).
ANTHROZOÖS, Volume 11,Number 2
Adults. Of the current cat owners (90% of all
adult test persons), 52% kept one cat, 29% two,
and 19% more than two cats at home. Seventy-
nine percent of all adults were parents (in same
cases, of adult children), 86% of all adults had
kept a pet during childhood, and 64% of the
childhood pet keepers had had a cat (in most
cases, other pets as weil). Chi-square tests re-
vealed that men and women did not differ from
each other with respect to these variables, nor did
men and women in the two experimental groups,
Aand B
Children. Of the current cat owners (aga in, 90%
of all children), 67% kept one cat, 19% two, and
13% more than two cats; 50% of all children
owned other pet species as weil. Ten percent of
the children had no siblings, 63% had one sib-
ling, and 26% more than one. Boys and girls did
not differ significantly from each other with re-
spect to these variables (chi-square tests; p
although the boys tended to have more siblings
than the girls. As for the age distribution, which
could not be balanced in advance, the chi-square
test showed a significant overall difference be-
tween boys and girls (p ~ .01). The mean age of
the boys was 7.5 years; 8.3 for the girls. Separate
tests for the two experimental groups (A and B)
revealed that the age difference between boys
and girls was significant only in experimental
group A. The mean difference in group A was 11
months; in group B, 7 months. The ages of the
boys and of the girls did not differ between the
two experimental groups (chi-square test;
Data Recorded
Cat and human behavior were recorded in three
different forms: latency times (seconds), durations
(intervals), and frequendes (events). Contact ini-
tiation is described in part by the latency {rom the
start of the experiments (A or B) to a spedfic be-
havior occurring for the first time. In the A experi-
ments (cat behavior), three such latendes were
recorded: for the first approach by the cat to
within one to two meters of the test person; for
the first social element of the cat; and for the first
ANTHROZOÖS. Volume 11.Number 2
body contact between cat and human. Five be-
havioral elements of the cat are defined as poten-
tial first socia I elements: an approach to within
one meter of the test person; sniffing the person;
head or flank rubbing on the partner; social play;
and withdrawing from an approaching person.
Cats that initiated social contact spontaneously
with the reading person could only show the ap-
proach to within one meter as first social element;
cats that did not initiate within the reading phase
had the possibility of starting social behavior with
any of the five elements
above. Body con-
tact could be initiated by either partner (head or
flank rubbing and petting, respectively), and we
only recorded when first body contact occurred,
not which partner was responsible for it
In the B experiments (human behavior), four
latendes were recorded: for the first approach by
the test person within at least one meter; for the
first social element of the person; for the first
body contact; and for the first vocalization by the
person. Humans could show several elements as
first social behavior: for example, vocalizing, ap-
proaching, social play, and petting.
The following variables were recorded in A
and B experiments as durations, using Hansen
frequendes with an interval of 15 seconds: the
distance between cat and human; play (whether
social or not); and vocalizations by the cat and
the human. Human posture and petting were
noted only in the B experiments. We distin-
guished between four distance classes: dass
(body contact): dass 1(within one meter, without
body contact); dass 2 (between one and two me-
ters); and dass
(more than two meters). Persans
could show three different postures: standing or
walking; sitting on achair; or crouching or squat-
ting on the floor.
Human vocalizations were not differentiated,
but we noted, at the end of each B experiment,
whether the person had spaken in complete sen-
tences, in single words or sounds, or both. Cat
vocalizations also were not differentiated, since
their social character was not always dear and
their functions in the cat-human context are
poorly understood. Nevertheless, most cat vocal-
izations could be dassified as "meowing" using
Moelk's (1944) definitions.
Finally, the frequendes of the following be-
havioral elements were analyzed using the abso-
lute number of occurrences per experiment
and/or phase of experiment (A): approaches and
withdrawals of at least one meter by the subject
in both experiments; sniffing the test person and
head or flank rubbing on the person in the A ex-
periments; following a withdrawing cat and pick-
ing up the cat in the
Data Analysis
The data from A experiments were analyzed sep-
arately for Ph
and Ph
each phase lasting five
minutes. Only the three latency times for first oc-
currences were measured once for the whole ten
Multivariate analyses of variance were con-
ducted to test the influence of the various factors
on the cats' behavior and on the humans' be-
havior, respectively (MANOVA, General Linear
Model [GLM], SAS program package, version
If the variance model was significant as a whole,
main effects were then tested. For the cats'
havior (A experiments), the influence of cat sex
and person type were calculated as fixed effects,
the individuality of the cat as a random effect.
Previously run MANOVAs showed no significant
interaction between cat sex and person type;
therefore, the MANOVAs were run again without
the interaction.
For the humans' behavior
experiments), two
fixed effects and their interaction were calculated:
age and sex of the test person. If the variance
model was significant, the following contrasts
were then tested by t-tests: adults versus children,
males versus females, men versus women, and
boys versus girls. The same contrasts were tested
in the A experiments if the main "person type" ef-
fect was significant. The smallest sampie size for
these contrasts was
To test the influence of activity by test person
(reading versus interacting freely) on the cats' be-
havior, the results of Ph
and Ph
were com-
pared in an analysis of variance (GLM), which
also considered the individuality of the cat as
We are weil aware that using the same set of
original data to test aseries of parameters in re-
peated tests and pooling data across various di-
mensions increase the chances of false ca ses of
significance. However, this problem is reduced
Experimental Analysis
Human-Cat Interactions
somewhat by treating the A and B experiments
separately, calculating main effects only when the
whole variance model was significant, and calcu-
lating contrasts only when the main effect was
Cat Behavior
Speed of Contact Initiation.
Duringthe reading
phase (Ph
of experiment A, the initiation of
contact had to come from the cat, and the
three latency times show the speed with which
the cats attempted to establish contact. The results
are summarized in Table
The first approach to within one to two meters
of the
person occurred in a mean time of
seconds; the first
element was performed at
seconds; and the first body contact was es-
tablished at a mean
seconds. All three first
events lie within Ph
the period during which
the test persons were not allowed to do anyth ing
but look at a book. This documents the cats'
general interest in
contact with the unfamil-
iar persons, even when the laUer seemed unin-
terested and did not encourage the animals.
However, the analyses of variance show that the
mean values are accompanied by a highly signifi-
cant individuality effect: the standard deviation
caused by the individual animals is high. Each cat
behaved in its own way, and the minimum and
maximum latency limes for the three first events
are highly divergent. The first approach, first
element, and first body contact occurred
wiLhin one, three, and five seconds, respectively,
for the quickest animals, but they never occurred
for a few of the animals, neiLher during the read-
ing phase (Ph
nor in the subsequent interac-
tion phase (Ph
Of course, other cats showed
intermediate values. Apart from the influence of
the cat's individualiLy, the
of the cat and the
person type showed no significant effect on the
cat's behavior. Irrespective of its sex and of the
age-sex dass of the test person, each cat behaved
quite consistently during its six A experiments but
differently from the oLher cats.
Given the test situation, the only possible first
element Lhat a cat could show in Ph
an approach to within one meter of the test per-
Table 1. Factors Influencing the Cat's Behavior: Results of the MANOVAs with Three Effects Calculated Without
Interactions (Cat Sex x Person Type)
for model; Effeet of Effect of
levelof individual Effeet of person-
Mean significance SD cat cat sex type
Variable Phase value SD (cat) (df = 21) (residuum) (df=17) (df = 1) (df = 3)
First approach
2 meters
(seconds) 80 (102.4) 4.58*** (119.5) 5.46*** 0.48 0.33
First social
(seconds) 156 (119.8) 6.14*** (117.6) 7.29*** 0.07 1.32
First body
(seconds) 279 (105.8) 4.88*** (131.6) 4.92*** 2.35 1.82
Distance dass
Ph 1 0.4 (0.6) 2.32** (1.2) 2.59** 0.69 1.09
(intervals) Ph 2 6.5 (3.3) 5.07*** (3.9) 5.35*** 0.93 1.73
Ph 1 4.3 4.1 6.59*** 3.8 7.90*** 0.22 0.84
(intervals) Ph 2 13.3 4.2 6.18*** 4.2 6.92*** 0.52 2.54 (*)
dass 3
Ph 1 8.1 5.9 8.48*** (4.8) 9.97*** 0.88 0.11
2 meters)
(intervals) Ph 2 1.8 (1.3) 2.36** (2.9) 2.21 ** 0.13 4.10**
Ph 1 4.4 (3.2) 4.42*** (4.1) 4.56*** 3.21 (*) 0.27
(intervals) Ph 2 1.6 (1.9) 4.46*** (2.2) 5.37*** 0.15 0.34
Ph 1 1.2 (2.5) 10.07*** (1.9) 11.30*** 1.53 1.36
(intervals) Ph 2 4.8 (4.2) 8.02*** (3.7) 8.66*** 2.22 1.75
Ph 1 3.5 (1.4) 2.64*** (2.2) 3.23*** 0.00 0.26
(events) Ph 2 2.1 (0.9) 2.07** (2.0) 2.11 ** 0.22 2.67·
Ph 1 3.0 (1.2) 2.25** (2.3) 2.72*** 0.03 0.38
(events) Ph 2 4.8 (3.1) 5.49*** (3.3) 6.14*** 0.39 1.50
Ph 1 1.2 (1.2) 4.70*** (1.3) 5.68*** 0.20 3.16
(events) Ph 2 1.0 (0.6) 2.12** (1.3) 8.54** 4.12 (*) 0.17
Head rubbing
Ph 1 1.1 (1.3) 1.65* (3.7) 1.76* 0.96 0.82
(events) Ph 2 4.1 (5.1) 8.55*** (4.5) 8.83*** 2.43 0.65
Ph 1 0.7 (1.0) 3.10*** (1.8) 3.13*** 2.69 1.05
(everus) Ph 2 1.1 (1.4) 5.19*** (1.6) 5.41 *** 2.30 1.06
Note: Far this and all ather tables: "'p ~ .001, "p ~ .00,'p ~ .05, ('lp ~ .1
Number 2 Claudia Mertens and Dennis C. Turner
FREQUENCY (lntervals/exp.)
1 2 3 0 1 2 3 dlstance
A D U L T S class
phase 1 phase 2 phase 1 phase 2
1 2 3 0 1 2 3 dlstance
CHI L D REN class
Figure 1. Frequencies of Four Human-Cat Distance Classes in the Two Phases (1 and 2) of Experiment A.
Note: The maximum frequency for each distance is 20. (Distance dass 0 is body contact and distance dass 3 is separation greater
than two meters.)
son. In 68% of all A experiments, the cat's first
social element was such an approach, a sign of
the cat's interest and curiosity. In 26%, the first
social element was a withdrawal from the ap-
proaching person; in 3%, it was sniffing the per-
son; and, in the remaining 3%, it was either
head/flank rubbing or sodal play.
A high correlation exists between the time
points of the first approach to within one to two
meters of the person and the first social element
.001); similarly, there is a high cor-
relation between the latency for the first social
element and the first body contact
.01). However, the correlation between the
latency for the first approach within one to two
meters and first body contact is not significant
.05). A cat that approached the per-
son to between one and two meters therefare was
not necessarily seeking or expecting body con-
tact; only cats that crossed over the one-meter
threshold were within range of body contact
Cat-Human Oistances and Cat Behavior Ouring
Phase 1. The distances between cat and test per-
son in Ph 1 and Ph 2 are shown in Figure 1, the
statistical results in Table 1. In Ph 1, a distance of
more than one meter could be observed in 78%
of the intervals, a distance of less than one meter
Experimental Analysis of Human-Cat Interactions
in 22%. Body contact could only be seen in 2%
of the intervals. Again, the distances are inde-
pendent of the cat's sex and of person type but
very much dependent on the individual cat
In Table 1, the mean frequendes of seven be-
havioraI elements of the cat are also given, to-
gether with the results of the statistical analysis for
each. In Ph 1 and, on the average, over all 116 A
experiments, play could be observed in 1.2 out of
20 intervals (the duration of Ph 1); vocalizations
were emitted in 4.4 intervals; the cat approached
the test person 3.5 times and withdrew 3.0 times;
sniffing, head, or flank rubbing occurred 1.2, 1.1,
and 0.7 times, respectively. The frequencies of all
seven variables are independent of cat sex and of
the person type encountered but vary significantly
from cat to cat. The most playful cat was ob-
served playing at a mean frequency of 11.3 inter-
vals, whereas 11 cats never showed any play in
Ph 1. The most active "meower" vocalized during
an average of 14.7 intervals, three cats were
heard meowing during less than one interval per
experiment. The mean frequency of approaches
varied between 0.6 and 6.8 for individual cats,
that of withdrawals between 0.4 and 6.0. Six cats
never sniffed the test person, nor head nor flank
rubbed; the most active animal sniffed with a
mean frequency of 4.5 times per experiment,
ANTHROZOÖS, Volume 11,Number 2 89
while the cat exhibiting the most body contact
head rubbed 6.7 times and flank rubbed 5.3
It appears that the behavior of the cat during
the phase where the human partner did not act or
react to the cat depends only on the cat's in-
dividuality, which is expressed significantly in
every variable observed. Thus, mean values over
different cats are especially useful for the com-
parison of the same cat sampie in different situa-
tions, such as in phases 1 and 2.
Spontaneous to Interactive Be-
the Cat. Before testing the quantitative
differences between Ph 1 and Ph 2, that is, be-
tween spontaneous and interactive behavior, the
influence of cat sex, cat individuality, and person
type on cat behavior in Ph 2 were tested. These
results are summarized in Figure 1 and Table 1.
As in Ph 1, cat behavior and human-cat distances
in Ph 2 were influenced by the cat's individuality
at a highly significant level and for each variable
tested. Furthermore, in contrast to Ph 1, the
frequencies of distance dass 3 (more than 2 rne-
ters) and of the cat's approaches toward the per-
son depend upon the person type encountered (p
.01 and
.05, respectively). A large distance
between the cat and person is more frequent with
- adults than with children. At the same time, the
cats tended to approach the adults more
frequently than the children (.05
.10), the
females more often than the males (.05 <
.10). The only significant contrast with respect to
approaches arises between boys and girls, the
girls being approached more frequently than the
boys (p
To analyze the quantitative differences be-
tween Ph 1 and Ph 2, we used a variance model
considering the activity state of the test person
(reading versus interacting freely) as a main effect
and the influence of individual cats as covari-
ance. The results are given in Figure 2 and Table
2 (but see also Figure 1).
The variance model is significant, at a level of
0.1 %, for nine of ten tested parameters and yields
a tendency for the tenth parameter. Seven of the
nine significant variables were influenced by the
activity state of the test person; all nine were in-
fluenced highly by the cat's individuality. When
the test persons started to interact, regardless of
how, the frequencies of most behavioral elements
ANTHROZOÖS, Volume 11,Number 2
of the cat changed, but the nature of the reaction
(amount and direction) was strongly dependent
upon the individual cat.
If we compare the mean differences between
Ph 1 and Ph 2 for all 19 cats, the distance be-
tween human and cat decreased during the inter-
action phase, and the most frequently recorded
distance became less than one meter in 66% of
all intervals. The frequency of body contact was
33% of the intervals, as opposed to 2% in phase
1. Fewer vocalizations were emitted in Ph 2, and
the frequency of play increased. The cat ap-
proached the person less often but showed more
head rubbing.
When we look at the reaction of individual
cats, we have to remember that the difference be-
tween Ph 1 and Ph 2 depends partlyon the be-
havior shown in Ph 1, when consistent individual
differences were already present. Still, the direc-
tion of behavioral changes (increase or reduction
in frequency) was generally the same for all cats,
and, with few exceptions, only the amount of
change was affected by the cat's individuality.
With respect to individual differences in the
amount of behavioral change, two findings de-
serve comment:
1. Over all A experiments and cats, the
frequency of withdrawals did not increase signifi-
cantly from Ph 1 to Ph 2. Nevertheless, the mean
value in Ph 2 is so high relative to Ph 1 that one
might expect a significant difference, similar to
that found for approaches (see Figure 2). In real-
ity, most cats did not withdraw more often, but a
few reacted to the dyadic situation by withdraw-
ing constantly from the person, which created an
artificially high mean frequency.
2. Play and head rubbing were seen signifi-
cantly more often in Ph 2 than in Ph 1, and al-
most all cats showed an increase in the frequency
of the two elements. Qualitatively, it seemed that
many cats had a pronounced preference for either
play or body contact (head/ flank rubbing, wh ich
elicited frequent petting) and increased the fre-
quency of their favorite behavior. All 19 cats were
therefore ranked for their frequency of play and of
body contact (the sum of head rubbing and flank
rubbing) in Ph 2. Those cats having a rank differ-
ence of at least 5 between the two forms of social
behavior were defined as having a preference.
C1audiaMertens and Dennis C. Turner
5 5
phase 1 phase 2 phase 1 phase 2 phase
phase 2
Changes in Cat Behavior Between the Reading and Interaction Phases of the
Note: See Table 2 for the effects of activity state and cat individuality.
Seven cats could be classified as "play cats," five
as "contact cats," and seven as having no prefer-
ence (doing both or neither), The negative corre-
lation between play and body contact was not
significant when calculated over all 19 cats
(Spearman Id
Human Behavior
Speed of Contact lnitietion. The latency times an-
alyzed for the cat in the A experiment were
measured and analyzed for the humans in the B
experiments. In addition, the latency time for the
first human vocalization was recorded and ana-
Iyzed. The results for all four elements are given
in Table 3. Naturally, during the B experiments,
although observation focused on the test persons,
the cats were also interacting, whereas the human
partners were looking at a book for five minutes
when the cats' initiation speed was measured.
The analyses of variance tested the influence of
age and sex on the test persons' behavior. Interac-
tions between age and sex were never significant.
On the average over all 115 experiments, the
test persons showed their first social element 14
seconds after the cat entrance was opened, a first
vocalization within 64 seconds, and the first body
contact at 74 seconds. Interestingly, the first
human approach (at
seconds) generally oc-
Experimental Analysis of Human-Cat Interactions
curred after the first body contact had been estab-
lished. The tests show a significance of the whole
variance model for the first vocalization and the
first approach but not for the first social element
or the first body contact. Both latency times with
a significant model show a significant age effect
but no sex effect. Adults vocalized earlier than
children and approached later than children.
The choice of the first social element appears
to be dependent on age. In 98% of the experi-
ments with adults, the first social element was a
vocalization. Children showed a vocalization first
in only 38% of their experiments, an approach in
and playing or petting in
Adults al-
ways used the same method to attract an un-
known cat; children chose among different meth-
ods. The result, with respect to the time point of
the first body con ta ct, was the same for adults
and children. The adult strategy and the sum of
child strategies had the same mean efficiency.
Still, the different child strategies are not nec-
essarily equally efficient For example, a Spear-
man correlation between the time point of the
first approach and the first body contact was not
significant (rd
wh ich means that
an approach is a relatively inefficient first social
element. In contrast, the correlation between first
vocalization and first body contact was highly
significant (rd
indicating that
speaking to the cat attracted it, making an ap-
ANTHROZOÖS, Volume 11,Number 2 91
Table 2. Effect of Human Activity State (Reading versus Interacting Freely) and of Individual Cat on Human-Cat
Distances and Cat Behavior: Results of the MANOVAs, with One Effect and One Covariance
for model;
Mean levelof Effect of Effect of
difference significance SO activity state individual cat
Variable (Ph 2-Ph 1) SO (cat) (df
19) (residuurn) (df
1,18) (df
Oistance class 0 6.1 (3.0) 17.66*** 4.1 7.69*** 4.34***
Oistance classes
0+1 9.0 (3.4) 18.51*** (5.6) 9.48*** 3.23***
Oistance class 3 -6.3 (4.6) 13.81*** (5.3) -5.24*** 5.61 ***
Vocalizations -2.8 (3.6) 9.52*** (3.8) -3.08** 6.53***
Play 3.6 (2.5) 7.33*** (4.3) 5.13*** 3.15***
Approaches -1.4 (1.6) 5.02*** (2.5) -3.40** 3.31***
Withdrawals 1.8 (3.6) 8.00*** (3.6) 1.90 (*) 6.91 ***
Sniffing 0.2 (1.1) 3.76*** (1.6) -0.52 3.92***
Head-rubbing 3.0 (3.8) 9.01 *** (4.2) 3.26** 6.00***
Flank-rubbing 0.4 (0.5) 1.25
(2.2) 1.76 (*) 1.38
Note: Levels of significance as in Table 1.
proach by the human partner unnecessary. As in
the A experiments, the correlation between the
time point of the first social element (regardless of
what it was) and the first body contact is highly
significant (rd
The Influence of Person Type on Distance Regula-
tion. The results on distance regulation by the
human partner are also summarized in Table 3.
Withdrawing was not influenced by age or sex.
Children approached a resting cat or followed a
withdrawing cat more often than adults (p
.001, respectively). Boys followed the cat
most often, significantly more often than girls (p
.05). Children were more active in redudng the
distance to the cat than were the adults.
The Influence of Person Type on Three Possible
Body Postures. Each of the three possible postures
was tested separately for a person-type effect. The
results of the analyses of variance are given in
Table 3.
The variance model is significant for each pa-
rameter. Standing shows an age-class effect: chil-
dren stood more than adults. Sitting has both an
age-class and a sex-class effect, and the contrast
between men and women is also significant:
adults sat more than children and men sat more
than women. Crouching has a highly significant
sex-cl ass effect, and a tendency for an age-class
effect: males crouched less than females, and this
Number 2
holds for adults as weil as for children. Since the
three body postures are not independent of each
other, we may conclude that body posture was
generally influenced by the person type.
The Influence of Person Type on Speaking to the
Cat. Adults and children differed not only in
the time point of their first vocalization but also in
the duration and quality of their vocalizations.
Adults vocalized much more than children during
the experiment (see Table 3), and females vocal-
ized more than males. Adults used complete sen-
tences, whereas children used mostly single
words or sounds. In 95% of the experiments with
adults, at least one complete sentence was
spoken (most often together with other sounds).
Thirty-four percent of the children did not vocal-
ize at all; 33% used single words or sounds ex-
clusively; and only 33% spoke complete sen-
The Influence of Person Type on Petting and Play
Behavior. The two intimate interactions that the
test persons could have with the cat were playing
and petting. Person type had no effect on these
two behavior patterns (see Table 3). On the aver-
age over all experiments, play by the test person
was observed in 8.4 intervals per experiment.
This does not necessarily correspond with the
cat's frequency of play, since test persons often at-
tempted to interact playfully with the cat by play-
C1audiaMertens and Dennis C. Turner
Table 3. Influence of Person Type on Human Behavior: Results of the MANOVAs, with Two Effects
F-value for Effect of Effect of
model; level age class sex class
Mean SD of significance (adults- (males- Interactions
Variable value (residuum)
children) females) (age x sex)
First social
element (seconds)
14 (34) 2.04
First vocalization
64 (l09) 13.51*** -6.23*** 1.35 -0.85
First body contact
74 (98) 0.13
First approach
116 (120) 3.67* 3.02** 0.55 1.14
3.2 (3.2) 2.78* -2.49* 1.33 -0.86
Following the Cat
1.5 (2.4) 8.95*** -4.60*** 1.73 (*) -1.86
Lifting the Cat
0.9 (1.3) 2.49 (*) 2.65*' -0.78 0.26
1.4 (2.0) 0.66
Vocal ization
9.5 (5.4) 30.14*** 9.32*** 2.40* 0.24
Play (intervals)
8.4 (6.5) 0.72
Petting (intervals)
10.8 (6.6) 1.16
4.8 (5.0) 3.25' -2.89** 0.99 0.8
4.8 (5.4) 9.95*" 4.36'" 2.86" 1.0
10.5 (6.4) 5.23" -1.78 (*) -3.14'" -0.2
Note: Levels of significance as in Table 1.
ing with an object. Indeed, the play frequency of
the cats was only an average of 4.8 intervals over
all Ph 2 replicates.
Petting the cat was observed during an aver-
age of 10.4 intervals per experiment. This does
not necessarily mean that the cat participated
freely. The parts touched by most of the test per-
sons were the head, neck, and back of the cat.
The very first moments of an encounter between
unfamiliar individuals are unquestionably impor-
tant for the subsequent relationship, since they re-
veal much about the partners' motivation and be-
havioral strategies. In the case of two partners
from different species, contact initiation becomes
Experimental Analysis of Human-Cat Interactions
even more complex, involving two different com-
munication systems and, most probably, moti-
vational contexts. The behavior and interactions
observed in our experiments represent such initial
steps in the establishment of a future relationship.
It was important to examine both partners' con-
tributions, as weil as the influence of the human's
behavior on the cat We would also expect an in-
fluence of the cat on the human, but, since most
studies on human-pet relationships have empha-
sized the human partner and applied psychologi-
cal methods (Turner, 1984), we decided to focus
on the animal aspect and use ethological
Several reasons were behind the choice of
adults and children as test persons. Cats tend to
live in larger families with children (Messent and
Horsfield, 1985), and most cats have to deal with
ANTHROZOÖS, Volume 11,Number 2
children. Secondly, the developmental and ther-
apeutic importance of a pet to a child has been
pointed out by several authors, most emphatically
by Levinson (1969, 1972, 1978); however, be-
havioral investigations of the development and
dynamics of child-pet relationships are rare.
Thirdly, the age and sex of a person have been
described as factors influendng the attitude
toward pets, espedally cats (Brown, 1984; Kellert,
1984; Stewart, 1983), but no study exists exarnin-
ing behaviora I differences between adults and
children in relation to a cat or the potential influ-
ence of those differences on the cat's subsequent
Children between six and ten years old ap-
peared to be the most suitable for our study: their
fear of animals is low (Bauer, 1976), their interest
is high (lersild, 1968), and they are old enough to
stay alone in an unfamiliar observation room for
ten minutes.
Useful Parameters for Studying Hurnan-Cat
Interactions and Relationships
Of the large list of parameters that we recorded,
we would like to discuss those that proved to be
the most useful and interesting.
Speed and Species-Specific Contributions
tact Initiation. The first body contact between cat
and test person is a key event, since both partners
are visibly involved. Also, most of the test persans
actively tried to establish/maintain body contact,
and most of the cats sought contact or at least
tolerated the humans' initiative. Body contact ap-
pears to be important to both partners and for the
The time point of the first occurrence of body
contact depends greatly upon the social context
(rnean latency in the A experiments
279 sec-
onds, in the B experiments
74 seconds). This
proves that contact initiation is a mutual process
that is delayed when one partner appears to be
uninterested (reading phase of experiment A).
The latency for the first social element, the ini-
tiator of this very first step, and its content also
are useful parameters, since the timing of the first
body contact depends upon them. As the social
situation was different at the starts of experiments
ANTHROZOÖS, Volume 11,Number 2
A and B, we must combine the results of both to
determine which partner most probably would
initiate social contact first in an unrestricted
adic situation.
The mean latency time for the cats' first social
element is 156 seconds, which lies within the
reading phase, during which the human partner
did not react to or encourage the cat However,
we had high-initiative cats, which showed their
first social element within a few seconds, together
with more reserved and even a few shy cats. The
humans' mean latency for their first social element
is 14 seconds, and we may conclude that, in a
free situation, it generally would be the human
partner who would initiate the social contact.
Humans mainly initiate by vocalizing or by
approaching the cat; cats will generally react by
approaching or withdrawing, and we could dis-
tinguish between trustful and shy cats, as did
Meier and Turner (1985). We therefore conclude
that, in further studies, recording the chronology
of events up to the first body contact, determining
the initiating partner, and analyzing the interin-
dividual sequence of behavior shown will con-
tribute greatly to the ethological analysis of inter-
actions (and relationships).
Distance Regulation. Records of the distances ob-
served between partners and of distance-regulat-
ing behavior (approaching, following, withdraw-
ing) are another very useful tool in analyzing
social relationships. We found that the distance
between cat and person was dependent on the
social situation (person reading or interacting
freely), the individual cat, and the person type.
Furthermore, distance-regulating behavior of the
cat varied with the social context (Ph 1 and Ph 2),
from cat to cat, and partly (for approaching but
not withdrawing) with the partner type en-
countered. But the humans also showed age-class
differences in their behavior. We therefore con-
clude that the combination of partners (trustful or
shy cats, adults or children), and their behavioral
contributions, as weil as the resulting distances
are all important when analyzing human-cat in-
teractions and relationships in different contexts.
Single Behavioral Elements Important to the Rele-
tionship. With respect to cat behavior, three ele-
ments appear to be important since their duration
Claudia Mertens and Dennis C. Turner
Cat behavior was not influenced by the sex of
the animal. However, 14 of the 19 cats were
castrated/neutered, which might have eliminated
a potential sex effect But, since a large propor-
tion of privately owned cats are also castrated,
our results suggest that cat sex is of little impor-
tance in the establishment of a relationship.
Factors Influencing Human Behavior
Of the two factors tested for a possible influence
on human behavior, age proved to be more im-
portant than sex. Adults and children behaved
differently with respect to contact-initiating be-
havior, vocalizations, distance regulation, and
postures assumed. But they were similar with re-
spect to the time point of the first social element
and that of first body contact and the amount of
play and petting. From the cats' reactions, we
may condude that adult and child strategies were
equally effective.
Adults preferred a vocalization as first socia I
element and maintained almost constant vocal
contact with the cat when interacting. Children
used a vocalization as one possible way of com-
ing into contact but did not usually vocalize
while interacting actively. It seems that vocaliza-
tions and approaches to the cat were used alter-
natively and with the same success, resulting in a
reduction of distance and frequent body contact.
By vocalizing, the adults left the active locomo-
tion to the cats; children more often took the ini-
tiative themselves.
The sex-dass differences involved only pos-
tures and the amount of vocalizing. Still, we
gained the impression that the onset of the rela-
tionship was less harmonious with boys than with
girls. A larger sampie size would be necessary to
establish whether sex-dass differences (which
might disappear later on) exist in children, or the
slight age difference between our test boys and
girls was responsible for our qualitative impres-
Concluding Remarks
This study has demonstrated the usefulness of ap-
plying ethological methods to analyze human-pet
interactions and relationships. Since we found
that the animal also influences the interactions in
Number 2
a relationship, the contribution of the pet's be-
havior should not be ignored. Psychological
methods, although still very useful, can only be
applied to the human partner, whereas identical
ethological methods can be applied to record the
behavior of both the human and the animal part-
ners in these relationships. We therefore recom-
mend the continued use of ethological methods
for studying human-pet interactions. And, with re-
spect to human-cat relationships, we can now
recommend the use of these rnethods in a less re-
stricted environment (e.g., the normal home set-
ting) and for longer observation periods.
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stimulation, activity and learning by cats. Child
ANTHROZOÖS, Volume 11,Number 2
... It has been shown that human observers can reliably rate cat personalities, and that these ratings correspond to actual frequencies of various behaviour patterns performed by individuals (Feaver et al, 1986), e. g. approaching, sniffing and rubbing on a person correlated well with observer ratings of cats as "sociable with people". Mertens & Turner (1988) divided cats into three categories based upon their approach to unfamiliar persons: initiative /friendly, reserved /friendly and an unfriendly type. The most significant factor affecting each cat's behaviour towards the humans was its personality, which was more important than the sex of the cat, or the behaviour, age or sex of the human. ...
... Even less clear is the function of rubbing by a cat on a human, and a cat rubbing on an inanimate object. A study by Mertens and Turner (1988) investigated interactions between colony cats and persons unknown to them. In staged encounters the person deliberately ignored the cat for the first five minutes and then interacted freely with them for the second five minutes. ...
... As shown by Mertens & Turner (1988) in response to a stranger, the amount of rubbing performed by these cats on a familiar person increased following contact from that person. It also increased on an inanimate nearby object, presumably functioning as a display behaviour pattern. ...
p>This study assessed the existence and nature of sociality in three colonies of neutered domestic cats. All three colonies exhibited a social structure whereby cats recognised individuals, or at least individual status, and reacted accordingly. In two colonies the overall flow of interactions was most clearly represented by the flow of head rubbing, and in the third group by the flow of aggression. Interaction within each group was higher between dyads that were present together less often. Head rubbing may reinforce social structure, flowing from subordinate towards more dominant individuals, particularly when cats return to their communal core area. Cluster analysis, of the probabilities that two behaviour patterns were performed by one individual within a single interaction, was used to produce an objective method for categorising behaviour. Many patterns clustered similarly in all three colonies, particularly with respect to two clusters - these were termed Affiliative and Approach /Sit categories. Analysis of the sequencing of behaviour patterns between cats during interactions revealed the importance of the tail-raised posture in cat communication. Its close association with head rubbing suggests it may be an appeasement display indicating a subordinate cat's intention to rub on a more dominant individual. The use of the tail raised posture and head rubbing by cats towards a familiar human was investigated experimentally. Contact from the human increased the tail- raised response and head rubbing on the person and on an inanimate object. The presence of more than one cat created competition between the cats for attention. The results are discussed in relation to the possible effects of neutering on heritable aspects of cat behaviour and the welfare aspects of neutering,</p
... Several studies have highlighted various human characteristics as important determinants of cats' social behaviour during human-cat interactions (HCI). Observational studies taking place in the domestic home [81,82] suggested cats demonstrate preferences for social interactions with adults (particularly females) over children. These differences in cats' responses may be explained by variations in humans' interaction styles, given that children (in particular males) may be more likely to approach resting cats, pick them up, and follow retreating cats than adults, behaviours which are likely to be perceived as threatening by the cat, or to at least induce a degree of discomfort [81,82]. ...
... Observational studies taking place in the domestic home [81,82] suggested cats demonstrate preferences for social interactions with adults (particularly females) over children. These differences in cats' responses may be explained by variations in humans' interaction styles, given that children (in particular males) may be more likely to approach resting cats, pick them up, and follow retreating cats than adults, behaviours which are likely to be perceived as threatening by the cat, or to at least induce a degree of discomfort [81,82]. In contrast, adults (in particular women) may be more likely to vocalise to cats and crouch down to their level, postures and behaviors which may be perceived as a less threatening and more encouraging of the cat to engage in social interactions [82]. ...
... These differences in cats' responses may be explained by variations in humans' interaction styles, given that children (in particular males) may be more likely to approach resting cats, pick them up, and follow retreating cats than adults, behaviours which are likely to be perceived as threatening by the cat, or to at least induce a degree of discomfort [81,82]. In contrast, adults (in particular women) may be more likely to vocalise to cats and crouch down to their level, postures and behaviors which may be perceived as a less threatening and more encouraging of the cat to engage in social interactions [82]. In [34] observations of HCI with adult owners in the home suggested that cats interacted with owners for longer durations when the interactions were initiated by the cat as opposed to the owner. ...
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Sociality can be broadly defined as the ability and tendency of individuals to reside in social groups with either conspecifics and/or other species. More specifically, sociability relates to the ability and tendency of individuals to display affiliative behaviours in such contexts. The domestic cat is one of the most globally popular companion animals and occupies a diverse range of lifestyles. Despite an arguably short period of domestication from an asocial progenitor, the domestic cat demonstrates an impressive capacity for both intra- and interspecific sociality and sociability. At the same time, however, large populations of domestic cats maintain various degrees of behavioural and reproductive autonomy and are capable of occupying solitary lifestyles away from humans and/or conspecifics. Within social groups, individuals can also vary in their tendency to engage in both affiliative and agonistic interactions, and this interindividual variation is present within free-living populations as well as those managed in confined environments by humans. Considerable scientific enquiry has focused on cats’ social behaviour towards humans (and conspecifics to a much lesser extent) in this latter context. Ontogeny and human selection, in addition to a range of proximate factors including social and environmental parameters and individual cat and human characteristics, have been highlighted as important moderators of cats’ sociability. Such factors may have important consequences regarding individuals’ adaptability to the diverse range of lifestyles that they may occupy. Where limitations to individuals’ social capacities do not enable sufficient e.g. adaption, compromises to their wellbeing may occur. This is most pertinent for cats managed by humans, given that the physical and social parameters of the cats’ environment are primarily dictated by people, but that positive human-selection for traits that enhance cats’ adaptability to such lifestyles appears to be limited. However, limitations in the availability and quality of evidence and equivocal findings may impede the current understanding of the role of certain factors in relation to cat sociability and associations with cat wellbeing, although such literature gaps also present important opportunities for further study. This review aims to summarise what is currently known about the various factors that may influence domestic cats’ sociality and sociability towards both humans and conspecifics, with a predominant focus on cats managed by humans in confined environments. Current limitations, knowledge gaps, and implications for cat wellbeing are also discussed.
... Positive outcomes have been observed for socially deprived people (e.g. elderly living alone Garrity et al., 1989), people for who human-animal relationships can promote interactive behaviours increasing, for instance, visual awareness or seeking proximity/ contact (Grandgeorge et al., 2017;Grandgeorge et al., 2012b;Hunt et al., 1992;Mertens & Turner, 1988). Such observations have been the basis for the development of animal-assisted interventions (AAI) (Grandgeorge & Hausberger, 2011) which are based on triadic interactions between a professional, a human recipient and an animal. ...
... Older inmates focused more on their own dog and less on the environment (including observer), suggesting that -for themtheir own dog was a more important source and a centre of a ention (Brickel, 1982). This is interesting as, when adults encounter an unknown cat, seeking physical contact is not the only way to interact (Mertens & Turner, 1988), but strategy could depend of the animal species (Nielsen & Delude, 1989). ...
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Animal-assisted interventions (AAI) seem to offer promising possibilities to prevent daily conditions of inmates (overcrowding or social isolation); however, nothing is known either about the potential processes involved or impact AAI on the development of interactions between inmates. We hypothesized that either dogs would be a source and the centre of a ention, thereby that dog may induce more dog-inmate interactions, or dogs would be social catalyst, i.e. facilitator of social interactions between humans. For that, we analysed first one-hour AAI sessions involving 10 adult male inmates, 7 service dogs and one dog handler. An observer recorded, using ethological methods, spatial distances between dogs and inmates and between humans, direction of inmates' gazes and their vocal behaviour. Hypothesis that dogs could be social catalyst was not supported: each inmate interacted mainly with his own dog. Own dog was the almost only exclusive partner with whom they communicated: target of their visual gazes, vocal production and physical contact. Based on literature and this preliminary research, we suggested that the animal/human ratio could be a crucial factor influencing the quality and quantity of AAI interactions.
... Tactile interactions with cats are considered to have therapeutic benefits to humans and are increasingly included within interventional contexts to improve human wellbeing 20,21 . However, cats are not considered an inherently social or highly tactile species and may have specific preferences for the ways in which they like to be touched and interacted with [22][23][24][25] . Despite this, the common occurrence of human-directed aggression during HCI 26-28 suggests humans' understanding of cat behaviour and appropriate styles of HCI may be limited. ...
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Humans’ individual differences including their demographics, personality, attitudes and experiences are often associated with important outcomes for the animals they interact with. This is pertinent to companion animals such as cats and dogs, given their social and emotional importance to humans and degree of integration into human society. However, the mechanistic underpinnings and causal relationships that characterise links between human individual differences and companion animal behaviour and wellbeing are not well understood. In this exploratory investigation, we firstly quantified the underlying structure of, and variation in, human’s styles of behaviour during typical human-cat interactions (HCI), focusing on aspects of handling and interaction known to be preferred by cats (i.e. ‘best practice’), and their variation. We then explored the potential significance of various human individual differences as predictors of these HCI styles. Seven separate HCI styles were identified via Principal Component Analysis (PCA) from averaged observations for 119 participants, interacting with sociable domestic cats within a rehoming context. Using General Linear Models (GLMs) and an Information Theoretic (IT) approach, we found these HCI PC components were weakly to strongly predicted by factors including cat-ownership history, participant personality (measured via the Big Five Inventory, or BFI), age, work experience with animals and participants’ subjective ratings of their cat behaviour knowledge. Paradoxically, greater cat ownership experiences and self-assessed cat knowledge were not positively associated with ‘best practice’ styles of HCI, but were instead generally predictive of HCI styles known to be less preferred by cats, as was greater participant age and Neuroticism. These findings have important implications regarding the quality of human-companion animal relationships and dyadic compatibility, in addition to the role of educational interventions and their targeting for optimal efficacy. In the context of animal adoption, these results strengthen the (limited) evidence base for decision making associated with cat-adopter screening and matching. In particular, our results suggest that greater cat ownership experiences and self-reports of cat knowledge might not necessarily convey advantages for cats in the context of HCI.
... Temperament types, or behavioural styles, have been shown to be reliably measurable in cats (Meier and Turner, 1985;Feaver et al, 1986;Mertens and Turner, 1988). The influence of socialisation on the reactions of cats to humans is profound (Collard, 1967;Karsh, 1983;Bradshaw and Cook, 1997). ...
p>This project investigated the effects of high levels of neutering on population dynamics and the population genetics of cat temperament. Male ranging behaviour, and the mating system of cats living in the urban environment of Southampton at the time of the study were also explored. A population dynamics study was carried out by means of door to door surveys. These revealed that neutering rates amongst adult cats were as high as 98% (females) and 97% (males) in the Shirley area of he city. A radio tracking study of entire males revealed home ranges of up to 14 ha, with core areas of 2-6 ha. These are larger than previously documented, and demonstrate that there is the potential for overlapping home ranges and competition for mating opportunities between entire owned males even in areas where high neutering reduced their density. Microsatellite analysis of kinship relationships between cats showed that there were more males siring kittens within the Upper-Shirley area than the population dynamics survey predicted would be present, even allowing for extensive ranging behaviour shown by pet toms. I suggest that some of the sires in this area are feral cats. Paternal genetics are known to have an important influence on cat temperament. Given the different selection pressures applied to owned and feral cats, it seems likely that feral cats tend to show traits such as lack of sociability to humans, that make them less well suited to being pets. The possible effects of an increase in owned kittens sired by feral males, promoted by neutering of owned males, was investigated by a temperament testing study. Temperament of litters born in areas of high and lower neutering were compared. This revealed a non significant trend at 6 months of age for kittens born in areas of high neutering to be less sociable to humans, as predicted by the hypothesis. These differences were not apparent when the kittens were re-tested at 18 months.</p
... Recent guidelines suggested by Haywood et al. (2021) highlight the importance of providing cats with choice and control within human-cat interactions. Previous studies have also found that cats prefer to interact with humans who leave them alone while resting, who do not follow them if they choose to retreat from an interaction ( Mertens and Turner, 1988 ) and that cats will respond more enthusiastically to humans who are more responsive to the cat's bids for interaction ( Turner, 1991 ). ...
Play is a common behavior, often exhibited within human-cat dyads. Play is a behavior that may have numerous benefits to both cat and human, including within the realms of social cooperation and inter-species communication. However, little is known about human-cat play and foundational information is needed. The current study aimed to investigate total daily play durations, play session lengths and the factors associated with play times in human-cat dyads. An online survey was developed using demographic information, questions related to play times, resources available to the cat, ‘games’ played with the cat, free text sections and the following validated measures: cat quality of life (QOL), the cat owner relationship scale (CORS) and the human adult playfulness trait scale (APTS). Regression analysis was conducted using SPSS 26. Responses were completed by 1.591 cat guardians from 55 countries. Total daily play times and play session lengths were both significantly higher in human-cat dyads where the cat was younger in age, the guardian reported playing a larger diversity of ‘games’ with the cat and the guardian reported experiencing a closer relationship with their cat. Some guardians reported avoiding play during times when they were too busy or due to fears over incurring injuries. The amount of play available in human-cat dyads may have an effect on establishing and maintaining social bonds between cats and their humans. Further research into understanding play within human-cat dyads and how it affects inter-species relationships is needed.
... First, age was important, as the younger children made fewer physical contacts with the service dog, gave it fewer treats, gazed less at it, and were further from it and nearer to their parent(s) than the older children. This result seems in opposition to previous reports demonstrating that younger NT children rely more on physical interaction with an animal compared with older children who rely more on vocal interaction (Eckerlin et al., 1989;Mertens & Turner, 1988). However, during a first interaction with an unfamiliar animal, older NT and ASD children interacted and made contact more easily with a guinea pig than did younger children . ...
... Cats have adapted their voices to communicate more effectively with humans. For example, adult cats meow at humans (Mertens and Turner, 1988), but otherwise, meowing is generally only used for communication between kittens and their mothers . Additionally, domestic cats' meows are more comforting to humans than those of wildcats (Nicastro, 2004), and feral cats' meows are different from house cats' in acoustic variables indicated by a spectrogram (Yeon et al., 2011). ...
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Whilst humans undisputedly shape and transform most of earth's habitats, the number of animals (domestic and wild) living on this planet far outnumbers that of humans. Inevitably, humans have to interact with animals under a variety of circumstances, such as during conservation efforts, wildlife and zoo management, livestock husbandry, and pet keeping. Next to the question of how humans deal with these interactions and conflicts, it is crucial to understand the animal's point of view: How do animals perceive and differentiate between humans? How do they generalize their behavior towards humans? And how does knowledge about humans spread socially? In this Research Topic, we aim to collect original empirical work and review articles to get a more comprehensive and diverse picture on how humans are part of the sensory and cognitive world of non-human animals. We strongly invite contributions that pinpoint shortcomings and limitations in interpreting the available research findings, that provide new cross-disciplinary frameworks (e.g. links between conservation biology and comparative psychology, or human-animal interactions at zoos and animal welfare) and that discuss the applied implementation of these findings (e.g. for conservation attempts or livestock husbandry management).
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Two original studies explored relationships between visual attention of children with ASD (candidates for receiving a service dog) and their behaviors during their first interaction with a service dog. The first study consisted in video behavioural analyses of 16 children with ASD interacting with a service dog. During the interaction with a service dog, the time children with ASD spent looking towards social items vs objects was associated with how they interacted with the service dog. The second study was exploratory (i.e. 6 children), using the same behavioural approach but coupled with eye-tracking data. The more children with ASD looked at both their parent and the evaluator, as opposed to inanimate items, the more they interacted with the service dog.
This article explores reasons for individual differences in animal behavior and points to various ways in which they deserve closer study. Differences in feeding, mating, or fighting behavior may occur because selection favors the adoption of different strategies by different individuals. Variations in signals may arise through selection for animals to be identifiable as individuals or for their relatedness to others to be assessed. The variability of behavior itself varies between different patterns in which it has been measured. Variation may arise because the exact form of the behavior being measured makes little difference from the point of view of selection. It is also suggested that variability in other cases may come about because, in an unpredictable environment, the best course of action cannot be forecast.
Discusses variation in Felis catus social behaviour, distinguishing between: 1) populations in which adult females are generally solitary and those where they are gregarious; 2) variation in group size and social structure, and 3) individual variation within and between age and sex classes in terms of the nature of social relationships. Specifically, note is taken of the significance of spacing, encounters, use of social odours, group size and structure, and social dynamics. Attention is paid to the nature and consequences of the social hierarchy that is established in farm cat societies, which varies considerably between populations. -S.J.Yates