The study involved 36 cats, young and old alike. Some were household pets, while others were living at a cat cafe (the “owner” in these cases was a staff employee who frequently interacted with the cats). The cats saw the same basic set-up as before, with a third party either choosing to help their owner open something or not. The cats weren’t any less likely to turn down free food when it came from the hands of their owner’s nemesis than when it came from their ally. This was seen across different ages and in both the cafe and household cats.
Animal behavior research is always tricky, and the researchers acknowledge that there are explanations for their findings that have nothing to do with a cat’s capacity for loyalty. It’s possible, for instance, that the cats simply didn’t recognize the act of someone not helping their owner open a container as negative behavior. But if the findings are valid, it’s probably yet another sign of the different evolutionary journeys that cats and dogs have taken alongside humankind.
“We consider that cats might not possess the same social evaluation abilities as dogs, at least in this situation, because unlike the latter, they have not been selected to cooperate with humans,” the study authors wrote.