HomeHuman to cat relationshipimprintingIs it normal for a cat to imprint on you? What’s the difference to attachment?


Is it normal for a cat to imprint on you? What’s the difference to attachment? — 4 Comments

  1. Yes, that’s the way I’ve understood imprinting, as Michael and Jane explained it. More a biological reflex than the result of reciprocal affection developed over time. I think there can be one or the other as primary or a mixture of both, but the most common is earned friendship, pseudo parent/offspring feelings earned over time rather than straight imprinting alone. It all happens in our natural world so I wouldn’t get hung up on what someone labels the relationship, but as I understand this a kitten is beyond “imprinting” after approximately the 2 month mark so anything they do after that is more choice than anything. Once they open their eyes and see “mommy”, be them a cat, a dog, a duck or a human that’s it basically, but it takes a village so to speak otherwise they wouldn’t transition from real cat mom to us at all. I think a feral cat who did not experience people at that young age who turns around and accepts them is unusual and special. That’s a profound unnatural adjustment in their life and it’s remarkable and worthy of all the love you can give them. But feral is pretty wild. People confuse stray homeless cats with feral. If you’ve ever been in a room with a feral cat you’d understand the difference.

    • I found the concept of imprinting a bit tricky as the domestic cat’s relationship with us is one of kitten to mother anyway so there is no much difference. There is a difference, yes, but it is masked by the natural relationship between us an our cat. I’ll check out Jane’s comment.

  2. Close attachment that resembles imprinting, is very common, across all species. It most frequently happens when a human has given very intense nursing care to a domesticated species. The recipient of the care can become distraught, distressed, jealous, lost, once the intense period of care ends.

    In rescued cats & tamed to dependence ferals, this can cause issues when they are rehomed away from their original carer. It can cause re-relinquishment.

    This phenomenon happens in humans too, after protracted periods of medical/nursing or social care.

    For the most explicit work on imprinting, see the work of Konrad Lorenz, who first described it in the late 1930s.

    He was truly the founder of ethology.

    • Thanks Jane. It is quite a tricky subject I found. Even how to use the word ‘imprinting’ in a sentence is tricky 😉 !

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