The first example comes from Dr John Bradshaw’s book, “Cat Sense: The Feline Enigma Revealed“. Dr Bradshaw writes about the love between himself and his cat, Splodge, a neutered, long-haired, moggy. Splodge is a standoffish cat but he became very affectionate towards one of Dr Bradshaw’s research students who was doing a PhD course. Splodge was not that affectionate with Dr Bradshaw’s wife who fed him but Dr Bradshaw recites the story of how Splodge greeted him when he returned in his car.
Whenever Splodge noticed that he had taken his car to work he would sit in the front garden all day. He’d even sit there all day if it was pouring with rain. He’d wait for Dr Bradshaw to come home. On seeing the car arrive he’d run across the driveway and sit next to the car.
As soon as the car door was opened Splodge would push his way into the car purring loudly. He’d quickly tour the interior of the car and then stand with his hind legs on the passenger’s seat and his front paws on Dr Bradshaw’s leg and rub his face against his human companion. You can visualise this scene of deep affection. I am sure the Doc was equally affectionate towards Splodge.
Dr Bradshaw says that it is hard to argue against the clear sign that Splodge felt a deep emotional attachment towards him; all the visual signs were there for all to see. This affection appears to be directed at a specific person in the family so Splodge was making a choice as to whom he should give his affection and love. It was not, an affection driven by the need to obtain food because, as mentioned, his wife usually fed Splodge.
I think most of us who love cats and who have over many years looked after a domestic cat experience this sort of affection routinely.
Dr Bradshaw also writes about a very convincing indicator that cats “feel genuinely happy when they’re with people”. Scientists were analysing why certain wild cat species were reluctant to breed in captivity. This, by the way, is an ongoing and serious problem with zoo wild cats because it leads to inbreeding. Anyway the scientists concluded that the stress levels of the cats went up when they were introduced to new cages (unsurprisingly). They measured the stress hormone cortisol.
In order to compare how domestic cats reacted under the same conditions they analysed “the urine of eight domestic cats [for the stress hormone] that were kept in zoo type enclosures”. Four of the eight cats were known to be affectionate towards people and the other four were less friendly. Each day they were checked by a veterinarian. This checking procedure caused stress to a mild level in the cats who were less sociable.
As for the four affectionate cats who had been caged like zoo cats it was predictably discovered that the level of the stress hormone was higher than the less sociable cats when caged; clearly indicating that they did not like to be caged. When the daily handling by veterinary staff began it was noticed that the levels of the stress hormone went down. Even though a visitation by an unknown person such as a veterinarian may cause stress levels to go up under these circumstances, this simple contact by a human caused the cat to become more content. It had a calming effect. They were at their happiest under these circumstances when “they were receiving attention from people”.
And so we have two science-based examples of what we know already! I think it useful, though, to drive this home because there are many online newspaper stories which misinterpret scientific studies in stating that cats only love us for the food et cetera that we give them.