Fetching felines: a survey of cat owners on the diversity of cat (Felis catus) fetching behaviour

Jemma Forman*, Elizabeth Renner, David A. Leavens

*Corresponding author for this work

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Domesticated animals are famous for the ease with which they can accommodate to diverse human environments and roles, but less well-studied is the ease with which domestic animals can manipulate their human caregivers to their own ends. For example, domestic animals may start and end their play behaviour with humans at times of their choice. Here we present the results of a survey of 924 cat owners who report fetching behaviour in 1154 cats. The overwhelming majority (94.4%) of these owners report that fetching emerged in the absence of explicit training. Fetching was primarily first noticed when the cats were less than one year old (n = 701) or 1–7 years old (n = 415). Cats initiated and terminated fetching bouts more often than did their owners. Thus, cats who fetch demonstrate independent and co-ordinated agency in the onset and maintenance of fetching behaviour with their human partners. Additional findings highlight the diversity of objects fetched and the diversity in household demographics. Our thematic analysis reveals owners’ perspectives on (a) the process of a fetching session, (b) the initial acquisition of fetching, and (c) the circumstantial factors that influence fetching patterns. In summary, cats who fetch largely determine when they engage in fetching sessions and actively influence the play behaviour of their owners.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20456
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2023

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