Wild cats forage for their food but a recent study found domestic cats are freeloaders.
Some may call domestic cats lazy, but they have mastered “work smarter not harder”.
Instead of hunting for food, indoor cats have discovered they can be served food by humans simply by meowing – another learned behavior.
Animals will hunt for their food in the wild and many that are domesticated, like dogs, still prefer to work for their food. This is known as contrafreeloading.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, examined seventeen neutered indoor cats to see if they too preferred contrafreeloading over freely available food.
They hypothesized that the cats would contrafreeload in their homes when given a choice and thought activity level would play a role.
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But it turns out domestic cats are the only studied animal that doesn’t want to work for their food.
Each cat was offered a food puzzle, to stimulate their foraging nature, and a tray with the same food. They were then recorded for 30 minutes to see which food they ate. This test was performed 10 different times on each feline.
Only four cats ate from the food puzzle, but researchers think it had more to do with hunger than the puzzle or foraging behavior. Eight cats ate directly from the tray and ignored the puzzle, which earned them the title of “freeloaders”.
The results were published in the journal Animal Cognition and came as no surprise to many cat owners. Age, gender, and activity level did not seem to play a role.
“In general, cats appear to conserve energy to the greatest extent possible, minimizing the amount of time and effort required to meet their caloric requirements, whether by hunting or engaging with enrichment devices in homes,” wrote researchers.
More studies need to be performed to try and understand why domestic cats ditch their natural hunting instincts for a free meal. Researchers believe the type of puzzle, food offered, and domestication could all play a part.
Cats have learned how to get what they want from their humans with little effort on their part. Well played, cats!
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