Animals cross the world on the streets and at night.
Some are gentle, others bold, and some are violent.
But a new study suggests that when an animal comes to a person, the first thing it does is seek out a familiar face.
If you see a cat in your neighbourhood, you may be in for a surprise.
Art and music composer Peter Zweig says this might explain why cats can be so attractive.
He and colleagues from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden studied more than 1,000 cats in the Netherlands and found that most showed a preference for familiar faces, which could be a result of the animals being attracted to human faces.
So if you meet a cat at the end of the street, for example, chances are it will choose you.
“It is really fascinating that a cat can be attracted to a human face and that this can also happen to cats in human contact,” says Zweige.
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The researchers did the research by recording the cat’s gaze, heart rate, breathing, and even the scent of its fur to determine if it was attracted to the person.
“We knew from previous research that the cats would respond in the same way to human face, but it’s very difficult to get a precise number of cats with this type of response,” says Prof. Zweieg.
They also collected blood samples to test for the presence of drugs in the cat, which may explain why a cat’s body language can be different from a person’s.
The research team has now collected more than 400 cats from across the world, which included dogs, cats, monkeys, guinea pigs, and rabbits.
“I think it’s a big question,” says co-author Dr Janette Kooijman.
“For example, cats don’t always show interest in human faces.”
For their part, the researchers hope that their findings will help the public understand the psychology of cat behaviour.
“Cat owners and people are often very surprised by the behavior of their pets,” says Kooig.
“And I think this research could help people understand the different types of human-cat interaction.”
Zweigs team is now planning to continue the research and look at other species.
“When we think about animals, we tend to think about what we know about them, and we tend not to think of what we don’t know,” he says.
“This research shows us that we can also learn about animals from our experience of being around them.”
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