This is a study by researchers at the University of Lincoln, UK. The title to the article in The Telegraph newspaper states that “Cats do not need their owners, scientists conclude”. I am referring to this article.
The study concludes that cats do not need people to feel protected. Cats prefer to look after themselves, they state. Separation anxiety is not what it is stated to be but a form of frustration. Cats do not show signs of separation anxiety the study concluded. Cats stick around as companions to humans because they want to. It appears to be a choice for the cat as opposed to a need.
The researchers state that cats can still develop close attachments with people but they don’t need them in the same way that dogs do.
I find the conclusions of the study as set out in The Telegraph newspaper confusing.
You could say that people don’t need other people in that they can survive without people but people prefer to live with other people because it’s preferable. That’s common sense and the same thing applies to domestic cats. They prefer to live with people because it’s preferable. Life is better. So the study is stating the obvious in many ways but I disagree with the fact that cats do not suffer from separation anxiety because my experiences inform me that the opposite applies. Cats do become anxious if the owner is away a lot and that anxiety can be manifested in cat health problems such as cystitis due to stress.
An interesting aspect of the study however is that it states cats don’t need people to feel safe. They look after themselves and they hide. So people should provide hiding places.
Once again I find that conclusion rather confusing because cats need people to provide the hiding places in a secure home. In fact, for an indoor/outdoor cat the home is a hiding place. The home is a place to go to for security. And the cat caretaker, the person, provides it. Therefore domestic cats learn to rely on people.
The idea that cats don’t need people appears to originate from the fact, the study states, that cats are not pack animals. Cats don’t need other cats and therefore they are not going to depend upon their owners. Once again I think that this is a confused conclusion and I disagree with it. In colonies of feral cats there is often a substantial amount of cooperation such as when female cats raise another female cats kittens. And we know that domestic cats and feral cats form friendships with other cats and other animals. Perhaps the word “friendship” is not precise enough but cats develop associations with a cats which they do willingly and voluntarily and it makes their life better. In the same way domestic cats form associations with their human caretaker and it improves their life. They don’t need that association to survive but they need it to feel better and to improve their life. The fact is that the domestic cat has learned over centuries to be reasonably sociable and he likes it.
The study also concludes that cats who have been scared or involved in some sort of incident do not want a cuddle from the human caretaker. They prefer to hide. Owners should not be concerned about this, the study concludes. I’m not sure about this either. Certainly cats need to hide somewhere if they are anxious due to an incident but reassurances from the human caretaker are valid in my opinion. They are helpful.
Cat expert cat expert Celia Haddon who supports the study’s conclusions said:
“Cats won’t live in an unhappy home, they’ll just walk out. And abandoned or feral cats get on just fine on their own.”
The first sentence is more or less correct but the second is incorrect. Domestic cats cannot survive well on their own outside the home if suddenly ejected. Some may manage but many die fairly quickly.
All in all, based upon The Telegraph article, which you can read here if you wish, the conclusions of this study are confused in my opinion and inaccurate and unhelpful. I have not come to this conclusion in defence of the human/cat relationship but because I simply find the conclusions vague, illogical and unhelpful.
Did you find this article useful and interesting? Can it be improved? Please tell me in a comment. I am always keen to improve the site for animal welfare and reader enjoyment.