Human-Cat Interactions in the Home Setting

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Unmanipulated human-cat interactions in established relationships and in the common but very complex home setting are described and analyzed quantitatively. Fifty-one cat-owning Swiss families were visited in their homes. In a total of 504 hours of observation, the interspecific interactions of 162 persons and 72 cats were recorded. Quantitatively, the interactive behavior of both partners in a human-cat dyad increases with increasing duration of human presence at home: this independent variable is largest in adult women and smallest in adult men, while children and juveniles show intermediate values. Therefore, adult women are generally predestined to be the main human partner in human-cat relationships. Even so, when based on mean duration of human presence, effects of human sex and age can still be found for some human and cat behavior. Judged by the amount and reciprocity of interactions, woman-cat dyads have the best and juvenile-cat dyads the worst relationships. Cat behavior toward individual family members not only depends upon characteristics of the human (availability, sex, and age) but also upon characteristics of the whole family, such as family size and number of cats living in the household (negative correlation for both factors). Cat housing condition (indoor versus outdoor) appears to be unimportant in the human-cat relationship, although it affects the duration of a cat's presence at home.

The results show the complexity of human-cat relationships in the privacy of the home. The list of factors shown to influence such relationships was increased by several variables. Thus, observation of unmanipulated interspecific interactions was useful despite problems inherent to most field studies.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 1991

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