I have decided that I am in a codependent relationship with my cat and I like it. It feels completely right to me but what does it mean? I’ve made the assessment based upon a University of Lincoln study which analysed the various relationships that people have with their domestic cat companions. They formulated a questionnaire which you can access online by clicking the link at the base of the page. You can then find out how they would classify your relationship with your cat. But I hope you read this page first! At least skim it. And if you have the time and inclination please return and tell me in a comment the type of relationship you are in.
Note: it appears that psychologists and psychiatrists regard a codependent relationship as a negative one with the participants suffering from low self-esteem and their behaviour being dependent upon the other to the point where they care too much for the other and not enough of themselves. This is painting codependency as a very negative aspect of human behaviour. It is one used by this study into the cat-to-human relationship and I do not believe that the researchers would define codependency as a negative form of human behavior. My reading of their study indicates this. And therefore, I have to come to the conclusion that the term “codependency” is an elastic one depending upon the context. If there is codependency between two drug addicts or alcoholics then yes, it is a negative situation but I regard it as positive for me. I think it is actually quite difficult to create artificial categories to define the human-to-cat relationship.
The researchers decided to pigeonhole cat owners into five types of relationships:
- Open relationship
- Codependent relationship
- Casual relationship
- Remote relationship
On the Metro.co.uk website they have used these categories to create their own questionnaire to find out what relationship their readers are in with their domestic cats and the results are presented below:
Comment: as I would expect most cat guardians (as I would prefer to describe them) are in close relationships with their cats. This makes sense because what is the purpose of living with a cat unless you are close to him or her? The purpose is to have a companion who gives you pleasure, company and who entertains you. If your relationship is something other than that you are not taking advantage of the potentials offered to you. And therefore, the relationship becomes almost burdensome it seems to me. You are paying out on food and vet fees with little in return.
Also, as would be expected, 11% of readers feel that their relationship doesn’t fit in with these categories. This doesn’t surprise me either because they are rather artificial. Academics do like to pigeonhole people into certain relationships as it creates an orderly conclusion. They can point to something definite and specific with the intention of pleasing people but life isn’t like that. There is often a wide and continuous spectrum of relationship types and that applies to the relationship between people and domestic cats.
They say that this type of relationship is one in which the cat depends on a “very emotionally invested owner”. This means an owner who is very close to their cat and depends upon their cat for their well-being. These owners see their cat as a family member and a great friend, they say. I would agree with this. Cat and human play and interact regularly. Personally, I see my cat as a close friend and I don’t actually see him as a cat sometimes. I recognise and respect him as a cat but oftentimes I relate to him as a little person with his own feline character. And he comes to me all the time and I reciprocate. That’s a co-dependent relationship according to these scientists. Note: it’s important to remind ourselves that they are cats! This manages expectations.
Cats in this category do not get on well with strangers and avoid them. They might hide from strangers and like to be by the side of their human companion. They don’t like it when their human is away and understandably this sort of relationship normally occurs when the human is around the home all the time because they are retired or they work from home. This applies to me and I’m proud of it because I think it’s the best relationship from the cat’s perspective. It’s the kind of relationship which results in the cat being the happiest among all the other types of relationship.
A codependent relationship is a two-way street. The cat has to cooperate and wanted as well. I have a close friend who is in a very good relationship with his cat but she was raised as an outside cat and this desire to be outside precludes a codependent relationship.
Of course, there are downsides: holidays are out because I feel that I can’t put him in boarding cattery. But that is no big deal for me as I don’t need to go on holiday. People should not be embarrassed if they are in a codependent relationship with their cat. The word “codependent” does seem to have slightly negative connotations but it shouldn’t. A good marriage between man and woman is one of codependency. Everyone needs the support of another. It’s normal and it’s good because we are sociable creatures. We need another near us and around us.
The cat is independent and solitary and, on my understanding of the meaning of this relationship, the cat is in a loose relationship with their owner. They relate well to other people. They don’t snuggle up or lick their owner. Comment: I wonder what causes this sort of relationship? Is it because the cat is less well socialised or is it because the person is ambivalent about having a cat? Perhaps it’s both? I suspect that the major reason is the person’s attitude. Humans dictate the quality of the relationship. We are in charge, and most domestic cats are socialised to the same sort of level which means that they need the companionship and support of a person or persons.
As the description describes this is quite a loose relationship in which the cat is allowed outdoors and is not particularly bothered about spending time with their owner. They might visit other houses in the area and vanish for days at a time.
The owner is emotionally invested in their cat and will play with them and their cat reciprocates. The cat relates well to other people but cat and person can happily function independently say the researchers. Separation is not a problem and this sort of relationship appears to occur in “busy households with more than one cat and the cats often have some outside access”.
The owner does not think of their cat as a member of the family or best friend. Cats under this heading prefer to keep a distance from people and don’t seek out their owner even when they are anxious. Comment: I’m not sure that I can see the purpose of this sort of relationship. Yes, the person will be feeding their cat but beyond that not much is happening. The cat is probably semi-domesticated or semi-feral. This would describe the ‘community cat’ which are so prevalent in developing countries.
Comment: But if this relationship exists in the UK, for instance, you wonder why it exists. Wouldn’t it be better if all human-cat relationships at least fall under the category “Friendship”? Okay, my relationship goes a bit beyond that into codependency, which I’m entirely happy with but at least there should be a close friendship between cat and person because both participants obtain the most benefit. If a person is going to invest into a cat’s welfare you don’t demand returns or benefits but you expect and get them.
One downside comes to mind: a person’s relationship with their cat may interfere with their relationship with another person. The other person may object to it. There are many instances of partners breaking up because one of them appears to prefer the family cat!
Assess your relationship by clicking this link. Remember that over time links to other websites will often break and stop working. If that has happened, I am sorry.