Study finds that cats really are attached to their people

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Many believe that dogs are the only ones amongst dogs and cats that form close attachments to the people they live with. Conversely, cats are often viewed as being aloof animals who wouldn’t care if you came or left. However, a recent study found that cats form similar attachments to humans that dogs and babies do.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Oregon State University, was published in Current Biology on Sept. 23, 2019. Its lead author, Kristyn Vitale, said in a statement that this marked the first time it’s been empirically demonstrated that cats display this type of attachment style with people. Vitale went on to confirm that the offspring-caretaker bond appears to be similar between cats and dogs and that “the majority of cats use humans as a source of comfort.”

One particularly interesting aspect of this study is that the percentage of cats of all ages that engaged in secure attachments with those who feed and house them is nearly identical to babies who engage in the same type of secure base test. What goes into this test is the cat’s or baby’s caregiver spending two minutes with them in a new environment, spending two minutes in separate rooms and then being reunited for a two-minute span.

Seventy kittens took part in this test, and 64% of them were judged to be securely attached. That meant that they exhibited little-to-no stress and balanced how much attention they gave that person upon their return with how much focus they had on, for example, continuing to explore the room that they’re in. This is as opposed to those kittens who showed signs of stress such as tail twitching and either clung to the person upon their return or stayed away from them entirely.

Identical studies that have been done of babies have found that 65% of them exhibit signs of being securely attached to their caregivers, nearly the same percentage as was the case with the kittens here.

Researchers also studied adult cats to determine if the results would be different for them than it was for the kittens, but that percentage was nearly the same, coming in at 66%.

So, it is clear that even though dogs may be more obvious in the affection that they give those who care for them, it’s now been shown that cats experience a bond with those individuals as well.