Unlike other pets, cats prefer to have free meals rather than work for their food, study finds
Humans aren’t the only animals that appreciate free food; cats love to eat food for nothing too.
A new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, published in the journal Animal cognition, discovered that cats would rather have free meals than work for their food.
While this may seem like a no-brainer to some, the researchers say the results are surprising as many animals, including other pets, enjoy performing chores to obtain food – an act known as ” counter-loading ”, according to the study.
Working with a group of 17 domesticated cats, the researchers presented the felines with an easily accessible food tray and an easy-to-solve food puzzle. They found that most cats opted for the tray, even those who had experience with food puzzles.
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“There is a whole body of research that shows that most species, including birds, rodents, wolves, primates – even giraffes – prefer to work for their food,” the lead author said. study, Mikel Delgado, feline behaviorist and research affiliate at UC Davis. School of Veterinary Medicine, the school said in a statement. “What is surprising is that among all these species, cats seem to be the only ones that did not show a strong tendency to countercharge.”
“It’s not that the cats never used the food puzzle, but the cats ate more food from the board, spent more time on the board, and made more first choices to approach and eat from the board rather than from the puzzle “, he added.
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Delgado and his co-authors Melissa Bain and Brandon Han don’t believe laziness was the cause of the results, as the researchers monitored the activity levels of all feline participants. Even many of the more active cats in the group opted for the easiest food source to obtain.
It is not clear why the cats in this study preferred freeload over counterfreeload. The researchers believe the type of food puzzle used might have affected the results because the puzzle did not mimic each cat’s natural hunting behaviors.