Your Brain On Kittens | Inverse

– Ah! (electric guitar rock music) Domestic cats, or Felis
silvestris catus, if you fancy, are thought to have
domesticated themselves thousands of years ago in the Near East. That’s right, domesticated themselves. Early cats discovered
that being around humans enhanced their own survival, so they changed their own behavior to co-exist with people. Now, cats are the second
most popular pet in the US, leaving dogs in their dust and only to be out-shined
by their true enemy, the freshwater fish. But you’ll get those
guys next time, right? C’mon, fish can’t do this. Don’t yet ranking systems
get to your head, okay? It’s not a competition. You’re number one in my heart, okay? So, why exactly am I being overtaken by the urge to put this
kitten in my pocket and keep it with me at all times? Well, our inexplicable drive
to take care of kittens may be due to its baby schema, or the fact that kittens have
big eyes and round faces, characteristics which, upon seeing, unconsciously switch our
brains into caregiving mode. Much like the episode we did on puppies, viewing the faces of those… (laughing) Viewing faces of kittens
with high baby schema is enough to subconsciously trick a human into thinking they’re
interacting with a human baby. Adults show high inactivation in attention and motion
areas of the brain, reflecting readiness to
interact with these cuties. Further, seeing these cute faces, activate the nucleus accumbens, a key area involved in
anticipation of reward. Or the ooh, ooh, ohh,
can I have it, please, can I have it, area of the brain. So, yes, I think I will take one of these. And on of these, oh, oh, c’mon, come back. And one of these. I think you guys just need to stick around in my pocket at all times, huh? Okay, yes, I wanna take
care of these cats. But beyond that, why
do I love them so much? Well, this may have to do with the neurotransmitter oxytocin. Also known as the love hormone, it’s produced in the
periventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus
and is a crucial player in social bonding, trust, and detachment. One study found a correlation
in human increases in oxytocin after playing with cats, suggesting that dangling that
string in front of your cat is actually bringing you two closer. Or dangling your hair, it also works. (cat crying)
(laughing) As a woman, I may be especially
susceptible to this bond, as one study found that the relationship between women and their cats is uniquely dynamic and complex. Right, guys? By viewing videos of cats
and their owners interacting, researchers found that women owners strongly influenced their
cat’s behavior, and vice versa. And these pairs would
respond to more subtle clues than male owners and their cats. Yeah, so cues, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah This study also revealed
that cats seem to interact more with female owners, Jumping on their laps and
approaching them more often. So, am I a cat lady? Yes, but I guess I can
blame it on the science. Look at him! They’re sleeping. Oh, they’re both purring. Ah! (cats purring) – Can you hear it?
– Yeah, I hear it. Hey! You guys talking to me? Science shows that humans may be able to carefully understand the
subtleties in their cat’s purr. When cats want food, scientists find that their purr includes a high-pitched voice component, which is reminiscent of a human baby cry. Likewise, humans are especially
in-tune to that sound, registering the sound as urgent, even if the subject had never owned cats. Suggesting that humans
can unconsciously identify distress purring from
a non-distress purring. You guys aren’t distressed
right now, right? No, they’re okay. Come here. You’re hungry? What’s that? Oh, you want a big,
freshwater fish for dinner? You bad. (beeps) Okay, let’s be honest,
cats can be cool as ice and sometimes they act like they don’t care one lick about people. (beeps) So, what exactly is
your cat’s brain on us? Do cats actually like us? Well, one lab aimed to look at just that. In the study, cats were
presented with four choices, a toy, food, an interesting
smell, and a human, in order to see what cats liked best. And in the end, humans were the winners. And when giving the
choice between shelter, the pet cats spent most of the time playing and bonding with the humans. So, thanks, cats, I think
you’re pretty cool, too. I think you two are cool, too. They love to play. Okay, and now to settle
the eternal debate, cats versus dog, which is better? Just kidding. I mean, why does it have
to be a competition? If animal compilation
videos of dogs and cats hanging out together
have taught me anything, it’s that the cat versus dog competition is all in the human owner brains, okay. So why not just enjoy the company of both? Unleash the dogs! We don’t have ’em? Oh, well, nevermind. I think I’m good, anyway. I’ll take you home and I’ll take you home. The summer is kitten season, a time of year when shelters are flooded with homeless
and newborn kittens. Kittens like this one are
among the most vulnerable animal populations in the country. (cats crying)
(woman whimpering) You can make a difference by fostering kittens
from your local shelter. Visit
for more information. Thanks for watching, and
subscribe for more videos. Right? You guys gonna subscribe? I gotta get you two a YouTube account. I mean, you guys would watch this, right?

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