01 December 2015

Cats and Us Addendum

I ended last Friday’s blog post, Dogs and Us, noting that, instead of having a dog that worships you, you might opt for a cat as we did. There are a few minor differences besides logistical to having a cat instead of a dog as a pet. 

Oh yes, I need you. Rub my
belly. I can’t reach it.
Take your relationship. Although your cat might adore you more than any other member of the human race, a recent study found that it doesn’t really need you. I fear that will come as a shock to cat owners, well, maybe to a handful.

Strange Situation Test with Cats

Researchers at the U.K.’s University of Lincoln ran 20 adult cats and owners through modified versions of the Strange Situation Test. Devised by Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s, the test is widely used with children and even dogs to demonstrate that the bond to their primary caregiver meets the requirements of a secure attachment.

The researchers laid out protocols for eighteen 3-minute episodes to assess how the cats would respond to procedures designed to alter their social support or trigger their seeking out an attachment figure, their owner. The episodes involved each cat being left in a room alone or with its owner or a stranger, or both.

(Cats being cats, two hid during an experimental testing period and were not included in the data analysis.)

Study Results: Cats are Independent (Surprise!)

Overall, the study showed that cats do indeed establish a relationship with their owners, but unlike the relationship of children or dogs, it’s not an attachment of safety and security.

The cats vocalized more when their owners left them with the strangers than when the strangers left them with the owners, yet there was no other evidence to support the requirements of a secure attachment. Instead, the results support the view that adult cats are quite autonomous and not necessarily dependent on others to provide a sense of security and safety.

Which, of course, isn’t to say cats don’t positively adore their owners. They stay with them because they want to.


Quote differentiating dogs from cats. (Wall decal by Wall Sayings Vinyl Lettering from www.amazon.com/Owners-Staff-saying-lettering-sticker/dp/B008UD5YUA)
P.S.

Cat study in PLOS One journal and article on study on Live Science website:
journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0135109
www.livescience.com/52099-cats-more-independent-dogs.html
Background on Ainsworth Strange Situation Test:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_situation
www.simplypsychology.org/mary-ainsworth.html

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