Cat Attachment To Humans

Cat Attachment To Humans

by Michael

We need to avoid stereotypes - Photo by allison_dc (Flickr)

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

We need to avoid stereotypes - Photo by allison_dc (Flickr)

There are several factors that affect a cat's attachment to humans. The first significant factor is one that we can't do much about and that is the earlier weeks, the first 7 weeks of the kitten's life when he or she was socialised to humans. This is very important for a domestic cat. Most of us acquire our cats when they are beyond the socialisation stage. Shy, defensive mother cats can raise shy defensive kittens and vice-versa. Confident cats with an open character are considered to be better cat companions for most people because they interact more and are therefore more companionable.

Purebred cats

Cat breeders do their bit in ensuring that their cats are well socialised. Breeders breed purebred cats. In a survey it was found that purebred cats (pedigree cats) were slightly more friendly, interactive and affectionate than nonpedigree cats. I can only put that down to careful socialisation by experienced cat breeders. In this instance, you have a definite benefit in buying from a breeder.

Number of human handlers

The number of people who handle kittens in early years affects the adult cat's ability to attach to people. If one person handles the kitten, the kitten naturally has a preference for that person over others in terms of agreeing to be handled. The opposite is true. Kittens handled by a lot of people will be relaxed about spending time being handled by a wide range of people.

Cat characters

Cats do have individual characters just like us. Some are inclined to be more sociable and some more retiring and nervous. This is both inherited and created through experiences. This points to a need for careful selection when adopting a kitten. That said, I am drawn to the more shy and vulnerable cat so there are no rules. In general, however, we will prefer a cat to be naturally friendly and sociable towards us. His character should support this behaviour.

Number of kittens in litter

In multi-cat households, if the cats get along well, the house is more harmonious. Harmony in the house fosters a friendly atmosphere and attachments. Adult cats that come from large litters that stayed together until aged 10-12 weeks are more likely to get along with other cats in the household than those that were raised in small litters and weaned earlier at 9 weeks.

Housing conditions

Housing conditions affect a cat's attachment to people in the household. In general, the lower the number of people in the house, the greater the attachment by the cat to the person. The lower the number of cats in the home also leads to the same behaviour pattern. Less cats results in more attachment to the human caretaker because they tend to interact more with the human caretaker. It is common sense really.

Apparently indoor cats interact more with their human caretakers but head butt and rub their human companions less than indoor/outdoor cats. This is because when cats come in from territorial patrols they re-mark territory inside by head butting and flank rubbing the person.

Cats age and sex

A cat's age or sex has no impact on a cat's preference towards a human's gender. Cats are gender neutral in their preferences. However, in a survey it was found that when a person initiated an interaction with a cat, the cat was more willing to interact if that person was female and adult and sitting. At the other end of the spectrum a cat is less likely to interact with a person if that person is a male child approaching directly.

This last factor in cat to human attachment behaviour seems to relate to levels of gentleness in our interrelationship. As I have said, cats live in a land of giants and life can be bit scary for a domestic cat unless we make the environment calm and friendly - less hostile and noisy.


If you were inclined to make a conclusion you might say that the cat/human relationship most likely to form a close attachment by both parties was one between a retired lady living alone or with her husband and a purebred Siamese cat (traditional or classic) that was kept in a large house with an enclosed garden. This does not preclude wonderful relationships between other cat types and breeds and other sorts of people.

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