How to win the trust of an unknown cat? Researchers from a French university have found the answer

To gain the trust of a cat who doesn’t know us, should we reach out to them, call them, or do something else? This is what researchers looked into by analyzing the attitude of a dozen felines towards people who were strangers to them and who sent them various types of signals.

Who among cat lovers wouldn’t want their feelings for felines to be completely reciprocated? They would indeed be thrilled to know they were capable of gaining the trust of any twink they might meet. If this remains utopian, the conclusions of a new study offer a path towards a better understanding of the attitude of cats vis-à-vis human communication.

The work in question, carried out by a team of researchers at theParis Nanterre University, have made it possible to identify the signals sent by humans to cats and to which the latter is most sensitive. They were published in the journal animals on May 3.

Illustration of the article: How to win the trust of an unknown cat?  Researchers from a French university have found the answer

Illustrative photo

It is Charlotte of Mouzon, doctor in ethology, consultant in cat behavior and specialist in the cat-human relationship, who directed them. She is also the lead author of a previous study looking at how cats react to specific talk and published in October 2022.

For new research, the team led by Charlotte of Mouzon observed the reactions of 12 cats – having lived in cat bars from Bordeaux and of Toulouse – in the presence of humans they did not know.

Each cat was brought with its owner to a room where an unknown person was standing. 10 seconds after the entry of the animal, the stranger carried out one of the following 4 actions at its address: a visual signal (hand extended towards it), a vocal signal (call), both at the same time or none .

The scientists then recorded the time taken by the cat to approach the person, as well as the nature of its reaction: vocalizations, eye blinks, tail movements…

Walk the talk

They found that cats were more likely to respond to unfamiliar humans when they gave them both vocal and visual signals (outstretched hand associated with the call). They also noted that when faced with people who completely ignored them, the felines would wag their tails. Which, in cat body language, is an expression of frustration.

Read also: A young woman makes the best decision of her life by adopting a shelter cat that no one wanted (video)

In summary, cats would be quicker to react to visual or bimodal (visual and vocal) cues. For Charlotte of Mouzon and his colleagues, this demonstrates that these animals managed to develop a specific form of communication with humans thanks to their domestication. They hope that the information thus obtained will contribute to the improvement of the cat-human relationship and to better understand the needs of felines in terms of well-being.

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