Like Dogs, Some Cats Will Play Fetch—But Mostly on Their Own Terms

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While dogs have a monopoly on pet playtime, cats both love and need to play with their owners, too. Cats chasing after toys might not be as common, but new research suggests that some cats enjoy a round of fetch. The study, published in Scientific Reports, unveils insights into how cats engage in fetch-like play without prior training and how scientists delved into this surprising feline behavior.

Understanding Feline Fetch

To investigate this phenomenon, researchers conducted an extensive online survey involving 924 cat owners globally, gathering insights from 1,154 cats with a history of fetch play. The findings revealed that an overwhelming 94 percent of fetching cats learned the behavior spontaneously, typically commencing their fetching antics before their first birthday, with Siamese cats leading among purebreds in this activity.

The study’s revelations reflect cats’ spontaneous inclination to fetch objects, a behavior often initiated and controlled by the felines themselves. Researchers are uncertain why some cats exhibit this behavior, whether it’s a social bonding activity or driven by other factors, and aim to explore these nuances further in future studies.

Cats Calling the Shots

A fascinating aspect of the study was cats initiating fetch sessions on their terms. Nearly half of the owners reported their cats taking the lead in initiating the play, while others prompted the game. Jemma Forman, co-author and animal cognition researcher at the University of Sussex, suggests that cats’ enjoyment peaks when they control the fetching sessions.

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While the research provides a glimpse into this behavior, it doesn’t encompass all cats, focusing solely on those with a fetching history. The study suggests that owners can potentially train their cats to play fetch by reinforcing the behavior, yet it’s crucial to recognize that not all cats will engage in this activity. So the next time you try to play catch with your cat, they might just do it, if their mood says so!