Have you ever cuddled a big cat?

Animal life

Please do not scratch: A new study in the journal "Physiology & Behavior" allegedly shows that cats are stressed when they are close to people.

The relationship between humans and cats actually seemed to have been well researched: More than twelve million cats are said to live in German households, more than there are dogs, rabbits or hamsters. Cats, wrote the psychologist Jens Lönneker in a research paper on the subject, "can be life and survival models for the future: They show us in their way how we can cope with the demands of modern life." What does Lönneker mean? He has done depth psychological studies with cat owners and finds that cats have answers to questions such as: “How can loners and individualists establish bonds with one another and organize a coexistence? How much proximity can be allowed, how much distance is necessary? And: How much can you follow stubborn interests, how much do you have to be considerate? "

Yes, how much do you have to be considerate - of the cat? A recent study from Brazil sheds a whole new light on this question. Daniela Ramos from the University of Sao Paulo, together with scientists from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna and the University of Lincoln in the UK, examined whether cats that live in households with multiple cats are more stressed than lone cats. That is a legitimate question, after all there is actually a slight trend towards keeping several animals of the same species together. In Germany, this phenomenon can be observed especially among dog owners; there are now lectures on the subject of “keeping multiple dogs” and the book market has recently started offering titles such as “one can still do it: tips on keeping multiple dogs” or “two dogs - double the joy”.

Happy in groups? It looks like this here. (Photo archive)

To cut a long story short: Ramos and her colleagues found all types of stress levels in all three groups examined (single cats, households with two cats, households with groups of cats), which they determined by measuring cortisol in fecal samples. There were stressed cats in groups, relaxed cats in groups, relaxed solitary cats, tense solitary cats, and so on. According to the scientists, the stress level may have more to do with other characteristics of the household, such as the relationship with people or the availability of resources, and less with how large the group of cats is.

As a by-product of the study, however, the researchers found that cats that owners said “tolerated” being petted had higher levels of cortisol. This detail has now drawn wide circles. “Study shows: cats hate petting” it suddenly said at heute.at and on other websites. There was also great excitement in cat forums. Today.at asks Ramos ’British co-author Daniel Mills and learns:" When cuddling, according to Mills, less is more! " Because cats make cuddling nervous.

In any case, the cat owners made these publications quite nervous. “I heard it on the car radio”, writes one owner excitedly in the “Katzenfreunde-Forum” and describes how her own cats, which were quickly lifted on their laps at home, actually resisted being petted a little.

It is certainly worth doing a few more studies to take a closer look at the living conditions of cats and their possibly not always untroubled relationships with humans. However, it can be said of the study from Brazil that has just been published in the specialist magazine “Psychology & Behavior” that, on closer inspection, the result is not that absolute. According to the owners, 4 of the cats in the study did not like petting and petting at all, 13 “tolerated” it and 85 “enjoyed” it. Elevated cortisol levels were only found in the category of cats that “tolerated” the crawl. The authors speculate that cats that openly refuse to be stroked are left alone, in contrast to their tolerant conspecifics. Those who tolerate scratching are not so lucky, but have to endure the stress. In order to get rid of the statements “cats hate petting”, other authors of the study joined the debate soon after the misinterpretation. Rupert Palme from the Institute of Biochemistry at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna said: “Cats are by no means generally stressed when they are petted. That depends much more on the situation and the character of the individual animal. "

So the all-clear for all cat owners who were concerned about the striking statement. You can continue petting without any worries - and you should perhaps only think once about which category your cat belongs to: is it just tolerating or is it really enjoying it? And: Are there perhaps a few nuances, a few more categories that don't even appear here? The owners were also asked to characterize their cat's personality in general. They had just three options to tick: Bossy, shy and relaxed. One wonders whether this rather rough classification actually does justice to the complex psyche of cats.

Tags: cortisol, cats, stress, behavioral biology
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Stressed Out From Petting: The Truth About Cats?

By Christina Hucklenbroich

Please do not scratch: A new study in the journal "Physiology & Behavior" allegedly shows that cats are stressed when they are close to people.

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