Cats have a bit of a reputation when it comes to showing affection to their owners. Cats are often thought of as aloof, independent, stand-offish and often just plain unaffectionate towards their owners. Cat owners know this to be patently untrue. And many cat owners will tell you that cats show their affection just as much as dogs do, they just do it in different ways!
And thanks to a new study, cat owners finally have some scientific backup to their claims!
Researchers at the Oregon State University claim that they have found that, just like children, primates, and dogs in similar studies, cats form emotional attachments to their caregivers. This includes what is called "secure attachment", which is when the presence of a caregiver helps the cat to feel calm and secure.
The cat attachment behavior study is set up so that cats and kittens individually spend two minutes in a room with their human/caregiver. Then, the person leaves the room for two more minutes, followed up by a two-minute reunion.
About 65% of the cats and kittens in the study were found to be securely bonded to their owners. What this means is that "securely attached" cats return to exploring their surroundings in a relaxed manner. Cats that have insecure attachments will either avoid their caregiver or cling to them.
In the study, securely attached cats will continue to explore their environment after their caregiver returns, while paying attention to their owner. Insecurely attached cats showed more obvious signs of stress, like twitching or lashing tails, frequent licking of lips, and avoiding their owner.
In similar research, 65 percent of children and 58 percent of dogs showed similar signs of secure attachment to parents and owners. Did you catch that? Around 65 percent of cats formed secure attachments to their owners - higher than the 58 percent of dogs.
"Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans," said Kristyn Vitale, author of the study and researcher at the Oregon State University's Human-Animal Interaction Lab. "The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment."
The study also showed that the bonds formed in kittenhood continued into adulthood.
"Once an attachment style has been established between the cat and its caregiver, it appears to remain relatively stable over time, even after a training and socialization intervention," Vitale told CNN. "Cats that are insecure can be likely to run and hide or seem to act aloof. There's long been a biased way of thinking that all cats behave this way. But the majority of cats use their owner as a source of security," Vitale continued.
"Your cat is depending on you to feel secure when they are stressed out."
Have a cat at home? Now you can get their likeness on a mug or other custom item! Click here or the image above for more information!