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You know it makes sense

Cat science shows Humans don't really "love"

"Studies by scientists show that your cat doesn't really love you"
—News report every couple of years

Many cats keep humans in pairs. It's said to be better for their general well-being, though some believe humans are happiest alone. But owners of paired humans frequently claim that their humans "love each other". They go on and on about it, to the annoyance of everyone else, with unlikely and sentimental stories of all the cute things their humans supposedly do. On the other hand, some cats are just as adamant their humans do not love each other.

So cat scientists decided to put it to the test.

"The first problem in doing this study," said Professor Felix of the University of Catminster, "is how can you test for 'loving each other'? That isn't really measurable. So what we do is, we change the question to something vaguely similar that we can answer. Then, when we answer that, we can claim we've answered the original question."

One test involves the humans' interactions.

"Despite what their keepers claim, the humans seldom display behaviours such as sniffing each other's bottoms or licking each other's hair. This immediately undermines the idea of them 'loving' each other in the sense cats do."

Prof. Felix also tested vocalizations. "We compared human pairs who were said to love each other with other pairs where the cats said the humans didn't. We found that humans who were believed to love each other did vocalize to each other. But pairs who were said to dislike each other vocalized a lot too, and in fact they vocalized a lot more forcefully. Meanwhile pairs who their cats thought they were just sharing space might vocalize a lot or hardly at all. Analysis showed no statistical correlation, and we have to conclude that cats attribute meanings of 'love' to vocalizations if they want to believe in this 'love'."

Many cats claim their humans specifically prefer each other to humans outside the pair. This might seem hard to measure, but an experiment was devised as follows. Suppose the pair are male and female. The male is introduced to a younger and unattached female. Experimentally, the male was in fact more likely to look at the new female. This disproves the theory that the male prefers the current female.

The one significant finding was a strong (though not perfect) correlation between the owners' belief in the humans' loving each other and the likelihood of the humans mating. The most likely explanation is that owners interpret this behaviour in ailuromorphic terms. However, even this result is dubious because it is based on the owners' approximate estimates of behaviour which is notoriously hard to observe.

All this raises the other question: do humans love their cats? Most human-keeping cats are sure they do, but they admit it's hard to prove. "Humans are so totally useless," said one, "that's why we like them. They can never get the right food, they get all agitated about nothing at inconvenient times like whenever you are on a table or sharpening your claws, they have a hard time understanding the simplest concepts..." Perhaps that's the real answer: humans may not really love, but cats love them.


Copyright © 2021. Not to be reproduced without permission. ||  Sunday, 16 May 2021
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