When we think of the amazing and rewarding connections that humans can have with their pets, the first example that comes to mind is usually the loyalty and affection of dogs.
However, new research is confirming what cat lovers have long known — that for a majority of cats, human owners are seen as family and are just as loved, valued, and attached as a blood relation.
The study in question, published in Current Biology, is titled “Attachment bonds between domestic cats and humans,” and was the result of a three-person team’s work: Kristyn R. Vitale, Alexandra C. Behnke, and Monique A.R. Udell, working in Oregon State University’s Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences.
They designed a study that tested how kittens would react to their owners leaving and returning to a room after a short play session.
They found that, like babies and dogs, kittens tend to become more stressed when a caregiver leaves the area, and stress levels return to normal when they return.
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These findings demonstrate that “cats show a similar capacity for the formation of secure and insecure attachments towards human caregivers” as human children and animals, with temperament varying because of socialization, heredity, and other factors.
While the first phase of the study only focused on kittens 8 months or younger, the study’s authors are confident that this attachment remains present in adult cats as well, following up their preliminary work with an analysis of cats older than a year, and summarizing their findings, writing: “Cat attachment style appears to be relatively stable and is present in adulthood.”
As for why this is, the team speculates that this bond between feline and human could be “a flexible adaptation of offspring-caretaker attachment that has facilitated success in anthropogenic environments.”
Put another way, it’s just as natural for cats to see human caretakers as family because, in a world run by humans, it’s just as rewarding for them to be cared for and loved by one of us as it is one of their own.
So, even if you and your cat aren’t the cuddliest, chances are they still look at you as family. Read more about the study’s findings here!
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