© Domestication is one of the hypotheses put forward by scientists to try to determine the… Domestication is one of the hypotheses put forward by scientists to try to determine the cause of this choice for the “law of least effort”. | am via Unsplash
Have you always thought that the cat was a particularly lazy animal? You are right. Unlike many other beasts, these little felines show a strange reluctance to make an effort to get food, says Science Alert.
When they have the choice between an easily accessible meal – say, in a bowl – and food stuck in a dispenser whose access requires a minimum of effort or reflection, dogs, bears, pigeons, pigs, goats, mice, rats or primates always prefer to solve the mini puzzle that will lead them to enjoy their meal, have demonstrated scientists. Cats, on the other hand, often seem to prefer “free” food. But, on closer inspection, this behavior is not necessarily synonymous with laziness.
A mystery that remains unsolved
A study published in the interdisciplinary publication Animal Cognition recounts a recent experiment with a sample of domestic cats. When the research team provides felines with a food dispenser and a tray with kibble, pets choose the meal on a tray more than the one requiring minimal effort. Even the most energetic subjects prefer to stick to “easy” meals. These results give weight to another study carried out in 1971, which had revealed a lack of what scientists called “contra freeloading” in cats. This phenomenon, defined by Glenn Jensen in 1963 during an experiment on 200 rats and which can be translated as “food enrichment”, is quite widespread in the animal kingdom and is part of their innate behaviors. “There is a whole body of research that shows that most species, including birds, rodents, wolves, primates, and even giraffes prefer to exploit their intellect to put their paw on food,” says Mikel Delgado, a feline behaviorist at the University of California Davis.
The exception observed in cats, however, remains a mystery. In view of the activity observed in these animals during the study that has just been published, the scientists did not retain laziness as the determining factor in the very particular behavior of the felines they observed. The team puts forward two hypotheses. A first track concerns domestication, which could be a more convincing factor in determining the cause of these pipes. At home, where food is readily available, cats are less likely to have to hunt in their environment to satisfy their appetite. After all, these little beasts are characterized by their ability to conserve their energy. But this is not enough to explain why other pets, in similar situations, systematically choose the option of tackling the most difficult meal to get. Also, reader’s why your chat always installs on your computer
Another hypothesis could be related to the way cats have evolved in order to get their meals. Unlike foraging animals, cats are predators that have a penchant for ambushing their prey. The food puzzle used in the study is therefore probably not the best way to stimulate their interest.
Beyond their curiosity about this phenomenon, scientists indicate that finding an explanation for this type of behavior is also in the interest of felines. “Understanding ‘contra freeloading’s is important for the well-being of pets, as the enrichment they receive after foraging is frequently used to provide them with mental stimulation,” they point out.