Our Cats Rely on Our Emotional Cues, Report Claims
The next time your cats face a new situation, take a minute to evaluate your own reaction — it may help them deal with the situation too — or so claims a new study.
Researchers wanted to find out if cats use the emotional information provided by their owners about a new or unfamiliar object to guide their own behavior toward it. To test this theory, the researchers found 24 owners and their cats, and then allowed each cat to explore an unfamiliar room (that had a fan in it) with their owner. Some owners were asked to regard the fans with fear — to back away and use fearful expressions and tones, while the other half of owners were asked to use happy expressions and tones.
Nearly 80 percent of the cats looked between their owner and the fan before the experiment began, which proved that cats (like dogs in a similar experiment) rely on us when faced with unfamiliarity. Cats in the negative group were far more likely to look toward their way out of the room and started to move toward it earlier than the cats in the positive group.
While the researchers say more research needs to be done, it does provide us a good reminder that our cats rely on us more than we may think.
And, the other night, Matt and I decided to give this a try.
We were using a new kitchen gadget that buzzed when its timer was up. Neither of us knew that this would happen, but the moment it started buzzing, the cats became upset. Immediately, Matt knelt down to their level and used a happy tone of voice — I followed suit. CG, although a little frightened, remained in the room. Ellie ran to the living room, but after a little coaxing, was back in the kitchen doing fine.
While some things will likely always freak out the cats (like our overzealous smoke detectors), this is a great reminder that we play a role in our cats’ safety. In addition to reminding them that they’re safe and secure, reacting appropriately may also cut back on CH-related injuries while trying to escape a fearful situation. I can’t tell you how many times a frightening situation has lead to them leaping off furniture (and landing awkwardly) or running away (and into a wall) or trying to race upstairs (and losing their grasp and falling). But maybe, just maybe, minding our reactions will help cut back on some of these in the future.
What do you think? Do you think your cats look to you for emotional cues? Please share in the comments!