Friday, December 15, 2023

Cats like to play fetch just like dogs but when it suits them

There have been a number of studies about domestic cats playing fetch. And I know that you will find thousands of cat owners who attest to their cats' ability to play fetch just like a dog. They thoroughly enjoy it. For the cat it is play-hunting repeated. For the dog it is often a functional behaviour for which they been trained.

But for a cat, chasing a ball is like chasing a prey animal. They catch it, grab it in their jaws and then bring it back to their owner because they want to repeat the process. This is not an example of a working cat but a cat simply replicating the hunting process and in their relationship with their human caregiver they have learned that they can ask him or her to do certain things such as feed them, open doors and engage in a game of fetch.

That's my take on cats playing fetch and I'm going to refer to a study recently published online in the journal Scientific Reports.

They concluded that cats like to play fetch when they're in the mood. I would add to that and say that not all cats play fetch to the same level or at all. But it does come naturally to them provided they have the cognizance to bring the ball or object back to their owner to restart. That's the key because all cats will chase something but can they bring it back to their owner who threw it?

The researchers found that cats are more likely than dogs to have a particular item that they will play fetch with. They tend to reject other objects. And some refused to play with anything other than a cotton bud which is clearly an object which is more likely to elicit a game of fetch for a domestic cat.

In the study researchers also found that cats "only play in certain rooms and only fetch for particular people."

The researchers of the University of Sussex worked with 924 cat owners owning 1154 cats. All of these cats enjoyed playing fetch. The objective was to find out if the cat's behaviour was instinctive or whether the animals required training. They also wanted to find out if the cats initiated the game of fetch or it was initiated by the cats.

They concluded that: "For the vast majority, 94.4%, fetching appeared to be an instinctive behaviour in the cats. They also found that most of the cat started fetching as kittens or young cats with 36.7% reported to 1st fetch under the age of seven."

Note: they have appeared to have missed the point that playing fetch for a cat is playing at hunting with a modification: bringing the 'prey animal' back to the owner to restart as mentioned.

The lead researcher, Jemma Forman, of the University of Sussex said: "Our findings show that cats dictate this behaviour to directly influence how their human owners respond."

I would suggest that normally nearly all games of fetch with a domestic cat are instigated by the owner in a desire to please the cat, to exercise their cat and to mentally stimulate them in what might otherwise be a less than optimal environment by which I mean the full-time indoor cat environment. The game is then continued with the input of the cat playing the game.

But the cats participating in this study normal started the fetching play session as they were trained up to do that. That had got used to these play sessions:

"Cats initiated and terminated fetching bouts more often than did their owners. Thus, cats who fetch demonstrate independent and co-ordinated agency in the onset and maintenance of fetching behaviour with their human partners."

My thanks to The Times  - Kaya Burgess

No comments:

Search This Blog