Surprising new research on cats will make you see yours in a new light

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Maya Beano

ON A regular basis, I wonder why we have a cat. This thought was most recently prompted by Peggy jumping onto a dresser and knocking off a ceramic bowl, which smashed. By the time you read this, she will have done something else to make me question my choice of pet.

Unlike dogs, which are dependent on us for everything, including their emotional well-being, cats seem to be sociopaths. Most cat owners (if owner is even the word) have entertained the suspicion that our feline companions would abandon us if we found ourselves unable to open their food containers. Sure, Peggy comes for cuddles every so often, but she might just be looking for warmth. In fact, despite cats having lived among people for thousands of years, it is questionable whether this has done anything to tame them.

However, it may be that cats are just misunderstood. Compared with dogs, they express themselves far more subtly, so that many of us don’t understand what their gestures and behaviours mean. Recent experiments suggest that cats are more socially intelligent and attuned to familiar humans than we realise. These studies even indicate that cats like us (I know, I can’t quite believe it either). What’s more, genetic investigations are getting a grip on just how domesticated cats really are. The findings may make you see your moggy in a whole new light.

Cats and dogs are the most popular pets in the world, yet the two behave very differently towards us. Dogs will rush to the front door in excitement when you come home, whereas cats appear aloof and …

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