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Results from this study on cats' attachments to their pet parents showed similar results to the attachment patterns in children and dogs

By Georgia Slater
September 24, 2019 04:11 PM
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Turns out your cat isn’t plotting against you — they actually want to be your friend, a new study shows.

While dogs typically come to mind when we think of human-animal attachments, research published in the journal Current Biology by researchers at Oregon State University found that while cats may not show it, they are able to form attachments with their owners.

The study took 108 cats, 70 kittens and 38 adults, and their owners, and gave the group a “secure base test,” a common test used to evaluate attachment security in primates and dogs.

To begin, the kitten owners were given two minutes with their feline, then told to leave the room for another two minutes and then had a reunion with the kitten for another two minutes, the study explained.

During the reunion, 64 percent of the kittens exhibited a “reduced stress response” and were categorized as “securely attached,” which, according to NBC News, means the subject is trusting of its caregiver and feels comfortable exploring around them; this is a trait that is similar to the attachments found in babies and dogs.

Cat hiding under furniture
Credit: Getty

“The characteristics of a secure cat, for example, [are] greeting their owner and then going back to what they were doing,” lead study author Kristyn Vitale told NBC News. “That’s how a secure human also behaves.”

However, the remaining 36% of kittens exhibited an “insecure attachment,” the study cited those kittens as remaining stressed during the reunion, and being avoidant of their owners.

Another test for insecure versus secure attachment was done with 38 adult cats, which found a similar split. These results are conclusive with attachment studies involving dogs and children with their guardians, the findings show.

“The majority of cats are looking to their owners to be a source of safety and security,” Vitale told NBC News. “It’s important for owners to think about that. When they’re in a stressful situation, how they’re behaving can actually have a direct impact on their cats’ behavior.”