This article originally appeared on Motherboard US in March 2017
Let me tell you about my handsome son, Mizue. He's a cat. He cuddles up beside me and pushes his little furry head against me when he wants to be petted. He purrs and rubs up on everyone he meets. He's the best dude, is what I'm saying here, and I am goddamn sick of people saying that cats aren't nice.
Cats are nice.
But don't take my word for it. Thanks to new research from Oregon State University, published on Friday in Behavioural Processes, there is scientific evidence that cats are, according to empirical study, nice. In fact, the study concluded, cats like interacting with humans more than they like eating food. Let that sink in: more than food. I don't like anybody more than food.
The motivation for the study was to apply cognitive tests that have already be tried out on dogs and tortoises on cats, in order to clear up some misconceptions around cats' bad reputation for being unsociable.
"Increasingly cat cognition research is providing evidence of their complex socio-cognitive and problem solving abilities," the authors wrote in the paper. "Nonetheless, it is still common belief that cats are not especially sociable or trainable. This disconnect may be due, in part, to a lack of knowledge of what stimuli cats prefer, and thus may be most motivated to work for."
The test took 50 cats both from people's homes and from a shelter and deprived them of food, toys, and people for a few hours. Then, researchers presented the cats with different stimuli within four categories: human socialization, food, scent, and toys.
The researchers concluded that there were no significant differences between the homed and the shelter cats, and that most cats preferred human socialization to any of the other categories. Half of the cats preferred social interaction to every other stimulus type, while only 37 percent preferred food.
"While it has been suggested that cat sociality exists on a continuum, perhaps skewed toward independency," the authors wrote, "we have found that 50% of cats tested preferred interaction with the social stimulus even though they had a direct choice between social interaction with a human and their other most preferred stimuli from the three other stimulus categories."
So, what does this mean? Basically, that cats are nice. But, the authors write, individual cat preferences for socialization may be influenced by life history or even breed.
A study of a few dozen cats might not be grounds for concrete conclusions, but this rings true for me. My cat doesn't spend every minute of the day with me when I'm around. More often than not, he's skulking around or chilling out on a sofa. But he's friendly with everybody and we have our moments. Honestly, I wouldn't want to spend every waking moment with the person I live with, either. And for the people who think cats are standoffish—are you immediately open and friendly with random humans you meet?
Your cat loves you. Love it back.