Research Explains Why Cats May Like Their Owners as Much as Dogs

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the internet loves cats. We love cats when they’re grumpy we love cats when they’re sweet we even have a strangely high tolerance for cats performing in musical numbers.
But do cats love us?
Can these aloof, fair-weather creatures actually form attachments to the humans that own them? Researchers recently attempted to answer this question through a study that quantified cats’ attachments to their owners. to seek out out more, I spoke with Kristyn Vitale, the lead author of the study. I’m a researcher at Oregon State University within the human-animal interaction lab. And your latest study was about this much-debated topic within the planet of cats,
which is, do cats actually like humans?
Tell us a slightly bit about what you verified therein study. What we’re watching is, does the cat use their owner as a source of security in an unfamiliar place. which we found that the majority of cats do use their owner as a source of comfort and security, which are some things that I feel plenty of individuals wouldn’t think a cat would do.
How do I test for that?
So what we do is bring the cat and owner into a neighborhood that they’ve never been before, which is our lab, and for two minutes, they’re during an area together. then the owner will actually leave the space and thus the cat is getting to be alone for two minutes. which two-minute alone phase is, it’s quite a light stressor for that cat. So we see that when the owner comes back, how they react thereto return.
So how exactly can we all know when a cat is under stress?
We measured three vocalizations. When the cats were alone, we measured what percentage meows they produced, basically, then when the owner came back, we verified, again, the number of meows, so if those went down. which we found that when the owner was gone there were high rates of vocalization, so high rates of separation distress, which then were relieved once that owner came back. There are definitely other behavioral measures, the lip licking, the tail twitching, which are things we didn’t actually measure within the study, but we just noted within the cats. And on those metrics,
how do cats compare to dogs or even humans?
We see that the majority of cats react during a secure way which suggests that when their owner comes back thereto room, they’re getting to their owner, they get attention, then they’re going back to exploring the new environment. then there’s this contact/exploration balance, but an insecure cat will actually either excessively cuddle their owner
or excessively avoid them. the majority of both cats and kittens were securely attached, around 65%. And these are the precise same responses that we see in dogs and humans, and at similar rates. That looks like something a cat lover would say
You have quite just over 100 cats running around your lab. And for somebody like me who’s not a cat owner and has had plenty of aloof experiences with cats, it makes me wonder, you know, is that atypical or am I just quite not experiencing these kinds of attachment bonds because I’ve never had a cat myself?
Actually, during a previous study, we verified cat sociability. And what we found was just a really great range in how social cats are. So we do see cats like you’re describing that are really independent and maybe don’t prefer social interaction, on the opposite hand we see, you know, cats that kind of prefer it, cats that sometimes prefer it, and thus the cats that are really highly social. So we see everything in cats. And I think this current research really indicates that,
even if your cat is fairly independent, they still seem to depend on you as a source of security. So albeit they might not be love bombing you all the time, they’re still viewing you as that comforting factor. Then why are cats so mean sometimes? – it is a bit like people, it is a bit like dogs, you know, you’ve some individuals who are meaner or more aggressive, but you’ve many individuals who aren’t. which I do think a variety of it comes right down to people maybe misreading cat body signals or maybe not knowing the thanks to interacting also.
Cats don’t have as many facial muscles as dogs do so I feel that sometimes they seem maybe more upset than they’ll seem especially if we’re comparing them to dogs who, you know, have their mouths open and their tongues out I feel it’s easier for people to quite read that communication than with cats So what can we actually realize what’s happening on during a cat or a dog or the opposite animal’s head when we’re studying them during this way? Like, can we are saying definitively that a cat is feeling one thing or another, or are we quite just making our greatest guesses supported previous studies in humans? you are doing not want to assume an excessive amount of . which we do not really know what love during a non-human fashion means. you are doing not wanna anthropomorphize or attribute human traits to the animal, you always wanna look out of that. So it’s really through reading their communication that we’ll say if they’re behaving during a secure or insecure way. But we’ll not really say what meaning for them,
that if they behave in a secure way, meaning they love their owner. it’d mean that, but we’ll not really say that because we’ll not ask the cat. So in light of what you’ve quite discovered recently, what are some future research questions that we still have around cats and thus the way they relate to humans? So in our current study, we only verified the behavior towards the owner Other attachment studies also look at the cat’s behavior towards a stranger, an unfamiliar person. So that’s something we’re doing immediately We’re watching, basically, what proportion time with a private a cat needs so on make this secure bond with them how familiar that person possesses to be And we’re actually also watching cats’ bonds with one another So if two cats share a social bond the same way that a cat shares a social bond with their owner And are there the opposite broad implications of this sort of research, like do I hope that it spills over into medicine or that it encourages more people to become cat owners? Yeah, I feel both There’s some argument on whether or not cats form attachments or form separation mental disturbance so I feel that more research definitely must be done which I feel that this definitely is often applied to only owners better understanding their cat understanding that their cat does see them as a source of security which their behavior can definitely impact their cat’s behavior So as an example I’m a dog person.
What’s your best case for why I should give cats another chance?
There’s with care much variability in cats, as I discussed It’s all about matching up those personality types once you are looking to adopt an animal and you’ll see dogs that are fairly independent, also then it is not necessarily that one species is that this manner and thus the opposite species is that this manner but more that you simply just need to find
an individual that you simply match up with So attend the shelter, find a cat that’s been rated as highly social if that’s something you’re trying to find and inspect it out and see how it goes Well, many thanks such tons for sharing all of your cat knowledge

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