This is an interesting topic because cat companions are not really known for their loyalty. I’ll re-write that; dogs are known for their loyalty while cats are liked and loved primarily for other qualities. Or am I incorrect?
I hadn’t given much thought to loyalty as a characteristic that I particularly liked in my cat until I began to write this. That does not mean he is not loyal. Loyalty, as an attractive characteristic, is probably not the first thought in relation to cats because they have this independent air. They like to do as they please.
I have always praised a cat’s reliability. They are always there for you. That is a form of loyalty. That said, there are many domestic cats that are allowed to go outside who wander from house to house and share their time at other people’s homes (“timeshare cats”). This is not that unusual. Also some indoor/outdoor cats never come back. This may be because their home is no good for them. They might be abused or neglected. Leaving under these circumstances is not an act of disloyalty but common sense.
However, in some cases, a well cared for cat just walks away for no apparent reason. Is that cat disloyal? Is it the case that some cats are simply not domesticated enough to stick around humans? Or perhaps there is something going on in the mind of the cat who walks out that we don’t understand. Are we inadvertently doing things that make our cat less loyal? For instance introducing a new cat that the existing cat dislikes.
Reflecting on “loyalty” in relation to my cat, Charlie, I feel he is loyal. His behavior demonstrates it. He sticks close to me most of the day. He spends time resting against me when I work, as he is right now. He talks to me – nearly always a request for something. I sense there is a connection between us that is on a par with human to human companionship. But is this loyalty?
Loyalty has been defined as “A feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection“. On that definition I think Charlie is loyal. I hope he thinks I am loyal to him! Although I don’t believe cats think about these human concepts.
The general public in America consider their cat to be loyal. A poll on another site produced these results:
- 83% said that their cat was “absolutely loyal”.
- 11% felt their cat was sort of loyal. Neither loyal nor disloyal.
- 3% thought their cat was disloyal and
- almost 3% were not sure.
Reading Between The Lines
This is about us as usual. All good cat caretakers will say that their cat is loyal. Bad cat caretakers, for whatever reason, will have a tendency to say their cat is not loyal. I think this poll is a reflection on our attitudes and behavior as much as it is a reflection of the behavior of our cat companions.
So for example, if you are a poor cat caretaker your cat is more likely to run from you or be defensively aggressive towards you. The person will then say his cat is not loyal. Conversely a person who loves her cat and is an excellent owner is almost bound to agree that her cat is loyal because (a) he will be and (b) because she sees her cat as a much loved companion. She is not going to call him disloyal. The question of loyalty for a cat starts with us.
For dogs I think it is different. Dogs will follow and look up to their “master” whether the master is nice to their dog or not. This is what Mark Twain is saying in this cat quote:
“By what right has the dog come to be regarded as a “noble” animal? The more brutal and cruel and unjust you are to him the more your fawning and adoring slave he becomes; whereas, if you shamefully misuse a cat once she will always maintain a dignified reserve toward you afterward — you will never get her full confidence again.”
I think it is fair to say that loyalty in a cat depends on us and this is right and proper.
Loyalty Between Cat and Another Companion Animal
I can’t finish this post without mentioning that there are countless instances of cats being loyal and loving companions to either a dog or another cat or indeed any other animal such as a deer. These relationships stand out and scream “loyalty”. There are many videos on the internet showing close friendships between cats and other animals that tick all the boxes in a loyalty test. Elisa Black-Taylor, a writer for PoC, has personal experience of this as she keeps cats and dogs.
Do you consider your cat loyal and if so what signs do you see that indicates this?