Stop the presses, dogs might not be people’s only best friends anymore! Felines are also angling to take up the mantle of our special buddies after scientists have made some startling conclusions in recent research.
Scientists at Oregon State University conducted a study and proved that our favorite felines can form secure bonds with their owners — just like doggos do. What this means is that cats, no matter how arrogant or aloof they might act, really do care about us and think of us as their caregivers. Scroll down for Bored Panda’s interview with the study author Kristyn Vitale!
Attachment behavior studies involve reuniting kids with their parents or caregivers after a short period of absence. Previously, researchers found that human babies, baby monkeys, and cute lil puppers can be securely or insecurely attached to their parents. Naturally, scientists decided to test the theory with kittens as well.
Well, scientists found that around two-thirds (or 65 percent to be exact) of kittens were securely bonded to their owners. What’s more, these bonds stayed firm right into adulthood. The ratio of secure to insecure bonds is almost identical to that found in human babies as well.
…just like dogs, monkeys and even human babies!
But what exactly is (in)secure bonding? Well, it’s pretty simple. A secure bond means that when a kitten’s owner returns to them, the catto will both pay attention to them and explore its surroundings. Meanwhile, an insecure bond means that the kitten’s seriously stressed-out: it avoids its owner, and has the body language of an animal that’s anxious.
Bored Panda interviewed study author and researcher Kristyn Vitale from the Human-Animal Interaction Lab at Oregon State University to hear more about her research and its implications.
“Although pet cats outnumber dogs in many countries, including the United States, we still know little about cat behavior and human-cat interactions,” Vitale said. “There has been relatively little research into the cat-human bond, especially when we compare it to the number of research studies with dogs and humans.”
“So our motivation was to bring more knowledge to this field of study. The research itself went very smoothly and we did not have any issues recruiting cats and owners to participate. Overall, this was a fairly easy study to conduct.”
Vitale continued: “We found that the attachment bond cats display toward their owners is very similar to the bond dogs share with their owners and even the bond human infants display toward their caretakers.”
“All three species display the same distinct patterns of attachment behavior. The majority of individuals in all species are securely attached to their caregiver, meaning they use their caregiver as a source of comfort and security in an unfamiliar situation.”
The researcher mentioned, however, that there is some room for improving the study, and hinted at possible future studies.
“We are hoping this is the first of many projects looking into cat-human attachment. Although we found that cats display attachment behavior toward their owners we still do not know what factors influence the formation of these attachment bonds or what factors may strengthen the human-cat bond.”
“In the future, we will look at some of these questions. Right now we are examining how socialization opportunities impact the formation of attachment bonds in shelter cats and ways to use this information to increase shelter cat adoption rates.”
Vitale also had this to say to Science Daily: “Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans. The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment.”
“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. 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. Your cat is depending on you to feel secure when they are stressed out,” Vitale explained.