Domestic cats are as attached to their human caregiver as infants and dogs

Woman are right to treat their cat companions as infants. When we see woman caring for their cats like infants it is, in fact, an accurate representation of how the cat feels towards them.

Cat attachment study
Cat attachment study. Photo: K. VITALE/OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This is a deliberately brief summary of an important study into the relationship between cat and human caregiver. I have kept it brief because scientific studies are very off-putting to the typical cat guardian.

Although it does not educate experienced cat guardians because they are experiencing the deep bond they have with their cat companion, this study is interesting and useful as a whole because it rectifies a misconception by many people that cats are aloof and independent and therefore unlike dogs and infants.

The study measured the depth of attachment from the cat’s perspective between cat and human and it came to the conclusion that domestic cats are the same as infants and dogs in terms of how attached they are to their primary caregiver, the cat owner (their guardian).

It is based upon the fact that adult cats retain a level of kitten behavior because the human to cat relationship fosters that as the human is a caregiver.

“The current data support the hypothesis that cats show a similar capacity for the formation of secure and insecure attachments towards human caregivers previously demonstrated in children (65% secure, 35% insecure) and dogs (58% secure, 42% insecure) with the majority of individuals in these populations securely attached to their caregiver.”

Cat attachment levels
Cat attachment levels

The scientists describe three different types of attachment between cat or kitten and human. The first is what they call ‘secure attachment‘. The second is ‘insecure ambivalent attachment‘ and the third style is ‘insecure-avoidant attachment‘.

As I read these levels of bonding (as I call it) they go from a close bond to a much looser one. And as can be seen from the quote above, kittens formed close attachments 64.3% of the time while 35.7% of the relationships were described as insecure attachments. The same levels are found in dog-to-human relationships.

They also decided that the kitten/cat’s behavior in respect of how attached they become to their human caregiver is established early on in life and little can be done to change it later on. We know this already to be honest. It is all about socialisation during the first 7 weeks of life of the kitten.

Conclusion: People who don’t have a cat or cats should recognise the fact that cats are as close to their human companions as dogs and human infants.

Click the link below to read the entire study on Current Biology if you are so minded. The scientists are: Kristyn R. Vitale,
Alexandra C. Behnke and Monique A.R. Udell. Seventy-nine cats and kittens were involved. They could see one of the ‘attachment types’ in 70 of them.

Study into how attached domestic cats are to us

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