New Cat Study Busts Myth – Shows They Form Emotional Attachments To Their Owners Just Like Dogs and Babies

Cats have a reputation for being aloof and not caring about their owners, but a new study has blown this myth right out of the water.

A new study published in the journal Current Biology this week concluded that cats form secure and insecure bonds with their human caretakers just like dogs and babies do. Researchers found that this bonding ability across species must be explained by traits that aren’t specific to canines.

“Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans,” said Kristyn Vitale of Oregon State University. “The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment.”

Research have often studied human attachments by observing an infant’s response to a reunion with their caregiver following a brief absence in a new environment. When their caregiver comes back, secure infants quickly return to relaxed exploration while insecure ones engage in excessive clinging or avoidance behavior. Similar studies have been performed on dogs, so Vitale and her fellow researchers decided to see what the results would be if this was done on cats.

They concluded that cats bond surprisingly similarly to infants. Around 65% of infants have been found to be securely attached to their caregiver.

“Domestic cats mirrored this very closely,” Vitale said, adding that about 65% of both cats and kittens as securely bonded to their people.

They also found that cats’ human attachments are stable and present in adulthood. Vitale and her team are now expanding their research to see if it can help relations with thousands of kittens and cats that wind up in animal shelters.

“We’re currently looking at several aspects of cat attachment behavior, including whether socialization and fostering opportunities impact attachment security in shelter cats,” Vitale said.

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