To really understand cats, we have to get out of this human-centred mindset and think of them as cats. When we do, what seems most likely isn’t that the cats in this study were selfish, but they weren’t able to pick up on the social interactions between the humans. They weren’t aware that some of the strangers were being unhelpful.
Cats were domesticated more recently, and have been changed by domestication far less than dogs
Although cats are able to pick up on some human social cues – they can follow human pointing and are sensitive to human emotions – they’re probably less tuned in to our social relationships than dogs are.
Cats were domesticated more recently, and have been changed by domestication far less than dogs. While dogs are descended from social pack animals, cats’ ancestors were largely solitary hunters. Domestication has probably heightened dogs’ existing social skills, but it may not have done the same for cats, who were less socially aware to begin with. So we shouldn’t be too quick to conclude that our cats don’t care if people are mean to us. What’s more likely is that they just can’t tell.