Bad News: Your Cat Might Not Really Love You, Says Study

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I'm a cat person — always have been and always will be. I love my two cats with a vengeance. I have friends who aren't cat people and that's OK, but I could never be in a romantic relationship with someone who didn't love animals.

Luckily, my boyfriend is just as crazy about cats as I am. We'd do anything for our cats, and they're like our children.

If there's an earthquake, thunder and lightening, or a vacuum being used — the big three of frightening things for cats — neither of the cats will seek out humans for safety. I'm more than willing to help, but in times when they feel threatened or frightened, they never ever come to us. Never.

New research from animal behaviorists at the University of Lincoln in England published a study in the journal PLOS ONE, which looked into seeing if cats, like dogs, looked to their owners as a primary source of security and safety. The researchers adapted the Ainsworth Strange Situation Test, or SST, which is used to measure secure attachment with children.

A child is considered securely attached if she/he is confident of their caregiver's support. The attachment figure (parent, caregiver) serves as a secure base from which the child can confidently explore the world. 

Secure attachment is demonstrated by the child keeping track of the caregiver during exploration, approaching or touching the caregiver when anxious or upset, and ultimately finding comfort in being close to the caregiver.

Now, how on earth did the researchers ever think that a cat would demonstrate secure attachment to their owners? 

The study observed the relationships between cats and their owners by putting the cats in unfamiliar surroundings with their owners, with a stranger, and at times on their own. The researchers were looking for three different characteristics of attachment: the amount of contact sought by the cat, the level of passive behavior, and signs of distress by the absence of the owner.

Lead researcher, Professor Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioral Medicine, said, "Although our cats were more vocal when the owner rather than the stranger left them with the other individual, we didn't see any additional evidence to suggest that the bond between a cat and its owner is one of secure attachment. The vocalization might simply be a sign of frustration or learned response, since no other signs of attachment were reliably seen."

So, cats take care of themselves, and they don't have it in them to depend on a human for safety.

"For pet dogs, their owners often represent a specific safe haven; however, it's clear that domestic cats are much more autonomous when it comes to coping with unusual situations. Our findings don't disagree with the notion that cats develop social preferences or close relationships, but they do show that these relationships do not appear to be typically based on a need for safety and security. "

My cats may not depend on me for safety, but I'm going to make sure the evil vacuum cleaner won't get a shot at them. I don't take it personally that they don't think I'm a safe place for them — it's just how they are.

I know they still love me. I mean ... I think they do. Yes, my cats definitely love me. 


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