According to a survey of owners, cats enjoy playing fetch, but on their own terms.
Researchers have discovered that despite their perceived independence and aloofness, a significant amount of cats actually engage in the game of fetch.
According to a survey of cat owners, most reported that their cats were able to fetch objects without any training. However, cats typically established their own rules for playing fetch and would only retrieve certain objects for certain individuals.
According to Jemma Forman, a doctoral researcher at the University of Sussex, cats are typically challenging to train. However, she clarifies that cats do have their own way of initiating playtime and it is a misconception that they are not social with their owners.
The research, published in Scientific Reports, interviewed 924 individuals who owned 1,154 cats that engage in the activity of fetch in order to gain a better understanding of this behavior. It was observed that for the majority of cats (94%), fetching seemed to be an innate behavior rather than something taught by their owner or learned from another animal. Most of the cats were reported to have begun fetching when they were kittens or young cats.
The top item that cats enjoyed retrieving were toys, with spherical objects like baubles or crumpled paper coming in second, followed by cosmetics. Certain cats had a preference for a particular type of item, a favorite playmate, or would only engage in fetch during specific times of the day.
“The size of the pom-pom plays a crucial role,” explained one pet owner to the researchers. “I purchased a bigger pom-pom, but my pet refused to use it. I have also experimented with smaller items that are similar in size to the pom-pom, and my pet rejects those as well.”
Other owners described being woken up in the night by the cat dropping toys on their pillow, ready to play. In the survey, owners were asked to define what their cat’s version of fetch involved. Some cats retrieved objects and delivered them back to their owner, while others only brought the object part of the way back or gradually dropped it further and further away.
According to Forman, cats are often perceived as not wanting to follow our desires and instead doing whatever they please.
According to the owners, cats are more likely to start and finish games of fetch compared to their owners. They also tend to initiate these games more often and play for longer periods of time when they are the ones who initiate the game, rather than their owners.
Forman suggests that the cat’s feeling of control can have a positive impact on the cat’s well-being and the bond between the cat and its owner. Owners should pay attention to their cat’s preferences when it comes to playtime, as not all cats enjoy playing fetch. However, if a cat does enjoy this activity, they may have their own unique way of playing.