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Not Just Dogs, Study Reveals Cats Too Can Form Intense Bonds with Humans

Man's new best friend?  (Image: Reuters)

Man's new best friend? (Image: Reuters)

While cats have a reputation for being aloof and independent, the way they bond with their owners show the depth of their human attachments.

For years, there has been a misconception that cats do not share a bond with humans, like dogs do. While dogs lick you and play with you to show their attachment, cats never show it through their actions. However, a new study published in Current Biology has found out that cats bond really well with their humans, even if they don’t show it often.

The study says that while cats have a reputation for being aloof and independent, the way they bond with their owners show their socio-cognitive abilities and the depth of their human attachments. The findings show that even domestic cats form secure and insecure bonds with their human caretakers.

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

In a behavioural experiment conducted to examine the bonds between cats and humans, the research team observed how cats respond to their owners in a strange environment. Similar tests had been run before with primates and dogs.

During the test, an adult cat or kitten was made to spend two minutes with caregiver. They were then left alone for two minutes. When they were reunited with the caretakers again, the cats’ responses to seeing their owners classified into attachment styles. The results show that cats bond in a way that’s surprisingly similar to infants.

The team is now exploring the importance of this work in relation to the kittens and cats that end 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.

first published:September 24, 2019, 15:08 IST