A new study from Oregon State University suggests that cats form a special bond with their human caregivers and think of them as a parent.
Some people believe that cats are not as sociable with humans as dogs are. This is because cats love exploring outdoors and they seem to have their own world. However, researchers at Oregon State University conducted a study about cat-human interactions and found out that cats also develop attachments with humans and even regard them as their parents.
“I think part of the reason for this paucity of research into cat-human interactions may stem from the idea that cats are not especially social animals,” said a researcher at Oregon State University, Kristyn Vitale.
“However, cats display a range of social behavior, and recent research indicates we may be underestimating the importance of social interaction in the lives of cats.”
The study involved 108 cats where 70 were kittens and 38 were adults as well as their owners. They used a “secure base test” to evaluate the felines’ attachment security.
To start with, the cat owners spent two minutes with their pet and left for another two minutes. After this, they came back to the room with their cats for another two minutes.
64% of the cats showed a “reduced stress response” during the reunion, which means they are securely attached to their caregivers.
“Cats mainly reacted in one of the three ways to return of their owner. Secure cats greet their owners and then return to relaxed play and exploration (known as the Secure Base Effect), while insecure cats do not return to relaxed behavior and either excessively cling to their owner (insecure-ambivalence) or avoid their owner (insecure-avoidance),” Vitale explained.
On the one hand, the remaining 36% of cats showed an “insecure attachment” where they are still stressed during the reunion and seemed to avoid their caregivers.
“The majority of cats are looking to their owners to be a source of safety and security,” Vitale said. “It’s important for owners to think about that. When they’re in a stressful situation, how they’re behaving can actually have a direct impact on their cats’ behavior.”
The key finding of the study was that cats nearly have the same level of secure attachment as dogs and babies. Due to this similarity, the author said, “It’s likely that the same intrinsic attributes and traits that make dogs and babies go puppy-eyed for their caregivers aren’t wholly unique to them. Cats bond to us, too just in their own, not always the apparent way.”
Though the findings of the study are great news for cat owners, Vitale said that larger studies are needed to confirm if cats are as securely attached as dogs and humans. She also said that they are planning to dig much deeper and study more about cat attachment, including their earliest social interactions.
“In my opinion, it’s very important to go out and try to interact with your cat and see what happens. I think there’s this idea that dogs are this way, and cats are that way. But there’s a lot of variability in both populations,” Vitale concluded.
Cats are nice to have at home and just like dogs, they deserve the same love and attachment from humans.