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Do Cats Love Their Owners? These 5 Studies Say "Yes!"

October 18, 2020 3 min read

Cats and humans can bond in love. Here's how you can forge ties with your kitty.

All the comics are clear: dogs are goofy people lovers, and cats are aloof super beings with delusions of royalty. But science doesn't support these stereotypes. In fact, researchers have uncovered evidence that cats and humans bond in ways that are just as meaningful as canine-human connections. Here's the scoop on feline-human bonding, and how you can encourage your cat to love you back:

Five research-based studies on cat-human bonds of love.

Social Referencing - Does your cat turn to you for advice?
Both children and adults look to those around them for cues about how to behave in unfamiliar situations, a behavior known as social referencing. For example, a baby may laugh when their caregiver does, not knowing why but imitating the emotion. One study showed that 79% of cats demonstrate social referencing by looking to humans and appearing to gauge their responses when confronted with a fan for the first time.

Source: The Scientific American 

 

Voice Recognition - Does your cat know your voice?
Researchers decided to explore whether domestic cats can recognize their humans' voices without the people being present. In this study, the cats sat alone in a room away from their owners, and the scientists recorded the animals' behavior after different voices called their names. Of the 20 cats, 15 appeared to distinguish between their owners' voices and those of other people.

Source: Vocal recognition of owners by domestic cats (Felis catus)

 

The Personality Paradox - Where did that purr-fect personality come from?
Scientists observed 40 cat-human pairs over 120 hours to learn what correlations may exist between cat behavior and human personality. Their findings led these researchers to believe that friendly, extraverted cats were more likely to experience high-touch, high-interaction relationships with their humans. In other words, if you want a friendly cat, play with the animal in a concentrated way.

Source: Smithsonian Magazine

 

Cat Considerations - What do cats think of humans?
It's tempting to anthropomorphize our pets and assign them human traits or emotions they may not actually feel. We might think a pet looks lonely or guilty, for instance, when in fact the animal could not feel any such emotion. So some feline researchers wondered what cats actually think about their people. 

The scientists concluded that "cats display distinct attachment styles toward human caregivers. Evidence that cats share social traits once attributed to dogs and humans alone would suggest that broader non-canine-specific mechanisms may be needed to explain cross-species attachment and socio-cognitive abilities."

Source: Current Biology 

 

Attachment - Are cats loyal to one person?
Some cats are definitely one-person pets. To them, other people either don't exist or are beings to be feared. So researchers asked, "What attachment behaviors do cats exhibit toward people?" They found that cats definitely bond with people and may even develop separation anxiety. Other studies indicate that some breeds are more likely to form special bonds with just one person than to give love indiscriminately. Who knows why cats love who they do, though? The heart has its reasons, after all. 

Source: Journal of Veterinary Behavior Clinical Applications and Research

 

Two tips for helping your cat bond with you.

Cats may love people as much as dogs do, but they don't immediately bond and trust in the same way as their canine counterparts. Domestic cats share far more DNA with their wild cousins than pet dogs do with wolves, so our feline friends may need a boost to help them bond with another species.

Give cats their space.

The feeling of being safe serves as the glue that bonds most tightly in any relationship, human or animal. To feel secure, cats need to have control of their personal space. So let your cat take the initiative in any contact with family members or guests. Set up a quiet space in your home for a feline retreat. And arrange the litter box in an accessible but out-of-the-way spot where an animal won't get interrupted by other pets, children, or loud noises while doing business. 

Win the cat's trust.

Cats' primary love languages are play and pâté, so give your animal lots of both. Share toys, gadgets, games, and treats with your pet. Stroke her if she enjoys being petting. Make sure she sees you putting out food and water and cleaning the litter box (scooping daily; scrubbing weekly). 

If you give your cat a reason to love you, you can rest assured that your cat will love you back. 



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