Why Do We Love Cats So Much? It All Comes Down to Science, One Professor Says!

CANADA – if it seems more and more cat photos are appearing on your social media feeds lately, you’re probably not imagining it.

Edmonton is one city in particular that seems to have gone a little cat crazy.

"City of Cats" is what Edmonton is calling their recent cat-themed ad campaign, and that might not be too far off, considering the amount of cat-related events this summer. (Supplied)
“City of Cats” is what Edmonton is calling their recent cat-themed ad campaign, and that might not be too far off, considering the amount of cat-related events this summer. (Supplied)

 

Events like cat yoga, and coffee with cats, have many people warming up to the idea of hanging out with feisty felines — and maybe even adopting one

Dale Gienow manages the Edmonton Humane Society’s education programs, which includes the popular Cats on Your Mats yoga classes.

“We get people pausing in the middle of their yoga session,” stated Gienow. “They’re doing downward dog and a cat’s sitting on top of their back or lying between their legs on the mat and rolling over, and they’re petting that cat and totally forgetting about the yoga.”

Cats are the stars of a recent City of Edmonton ad campaign. (Supplied)
Cats are the stars of a recent City of Edmonton ad campaign. (Supplied)

 

In using yoga to make friends with kitties, it turns out the humane society might just be on to something.

‘People will most definitely look if there are cats’

University of Alberta psychology professor Connie Varnhagen explains that convincing people to like cats comes down to science — particularly a theory about associating something you already see in a positive light with something you may be indifferent to.

“So you like yoga. You go to hot yoga, you go to whatever yoga, and there’s cats there,” Varnhagen stated. “You go to yoga enough times and there’s cats there enough times that you start to associate this great experience of yoga with cats.”

And even that can go both ways — those who love cats but aren’t sure about yoga might learn the like yoga if there are cats around.

For those not so into yoga, the Edmonton Humane Society also hosts a painting night with, you guessed it, cats.

Just earlier this summer, a sold-out pop-up cat cafe had many participants warming up to purring kittens while sipping cups of hot brew.

Even the City of Edmonton recognized the cat craze. It’s latest video advertising downtown as a place to both work and live, features a grey cat named Winston, and some interesting facts — did you know Edmonton’s downtown has 248 licensed cats living among 13,000 residents?

Mary Ann Debrinksi, who is director of urban renewal, said the city did its research about what would grab attention. It seems to have worked — the video has been viewed thousands of times online.

“It’s basically people will look if there are cats,” Debrinski stated.

You can’t get enough of cats? You should blame science

Winston, who is the star of that video, lives downtown with owner Charlotte Delaet.

She got him eight just years ago when he was a kitten. It’s been a love affair ever since.

“He knows what time I come home at, so he’ll be curled up by the door and usually goes and walks over to the carpet and expects to be petted or brushed,” Delaet stated. “So we usually go and do that, and he just chills out with me for a bit.”

Winston the cat is a bit of a celebrity. He stars in a City of Edmonton ad campaign. (Roberta Bell/CBC)
Winston the cat is a bit of a celebrity. He stars in a City of Edmonton ad campaign. (Roberta Bell/CBC)

 

She said she has noticed the rapid growth in the popularity of cats and thinks it might be because cats are a “great companion” for an independent person.

Varnhagen explained that cats work well as “surrogate family members” as family composition changes over time.

But it all comes back to that thing called science, really.

“One idea is we’re evolutionarily adapted to adore little round faces,” Varnhagen stated. “Through evolution, we’re primed to like baby-like things. That’s built right into our genetic material, our makeup.

“So what does a cat have? A little round face.”

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