Surprisingly, cats form strong bonds with their human companions, much like the way children form connections with their parents.

Hold the presses—dogs may soon have some competition for the title of our best friends! Recent research from Oregon State University has revealed that our beloved felines are capable of forming secure bonds with their owners, akin to the close relationships that dogs often have. Despite their perceived arrogance or aloofness, cats genuinely care about us and consider us their caregivers. Read on for an interview with the study author, Kristyn Vitale, as shared with Bored Panda!

Attachment behavior studies typically involve reuniting children with their parents or caregivers after a brief separation. Earlier research indicated that human infants, baby monkeys, and adorable little puppies can exhibit either secure or insecure attachment to their parents. Naturally, scientists extended this inquiry to kittens as well.

Recent findings affirm that cats can indeed form secure bonds with their owners…

Researchers discovered that approximately two-thirds, or precisely 65 percent, of kittens formed secure bonds with their owners. Interestingly, these attachments remained strong into adulthood. The proportion of secure to insecure bonds closely mirrors what is observed in human infants.

…similar to dogs, monkeys, and even human babies!

But what does (in)secure bonding entail? It’s quite straightforward. A secure bond implies that when a kitten’s owner reunites with them, the cat will both show interest in them and explore its surroundings. On the other hand, an insecure bond indicates that the kitten is highly stressed: it avoids its owner and exhibits body language typical of an anxious animal.

This suggests that two-thirds of felines perceive their owners as caretakers or even parental figures.

Bored Panda conducted an interview with Kristyn Vitale, the study author and researcher from the Human-Animal Interaction Lab at Oregon State University, to delve deeper into her research and its implications.

“Despite pet cats outnumbering dogs in many countries, including the United States, our understanding of cat behavior and human-cat interactions remains limited,” noted Vitale. “There has been relatively little research on the cat-human bond, especially in comparison to the extensive studies involving dogs and humans.”

“Our motivation was to contribute more knowledge to this field of study. The research progressed smoothly, and we encountered no difficulties in recruiting cats and owners to participate. Overall, this study was relatively straightforward.”

Even though cats may give the impression of being arrogant and aloof, the research reveals that they genuinely care about us.

Vitale further explained, “Our findings indicate that the attachment bond exhibited by cats toward their owners closely mirrors the bond between dogs and their owners, as well as the bond observed in human infants with their caretakers.”

“All three species exhibit comparable patterns of attachment behavior. A majority of individuals in each species form secure attachments with their caregivers, relying on them as a source of comfort and security in unfamiliar situations.”

The researcher acknowledged that there is room for improvement in the study and alluded to potential future research endeavors.

“We anticipate this being the inaugural project in a series investigating cat-human attachment. While we established that cats exhibit attachment behavior toward their owners, there is still a gap in our understanding regarding the factors that influence the formation of these attachment bonds and those that may enhance the human-cat bond.”

“In forthcoming studies, we aim to explore these questions. Currently, we are investigating how socialization opportunities affect the development of attachment bonds in shelter cats and exploring ways to leverage this information to increase adoption rates for shelter cats.”

Vitale also shared with Science Daily, “Similar to dogs, cats exhibit social flexibility in their attachments to humans. The majority of cats form secure attachments with their owners, relying on them for security in unfamiliar environments.”

“Once an attachment style is established between a cat and its caregiver, it seems to remain relatively stable over time, even after training and socialization interventions. Cats with insecure attachments may tend to run and hide or appear aloof. There has long been a biased perception that all cats behave in this manner. However, the majority of cats depend on their owners as a source of security. Your cat relies on you for comfort when they are stressed.”

“Dogs may not be the sole contenders for people’s best friends anymore.”

Dear Panda community, how do these remarkable findings resonate with you? Will they reshape your perspective on cats moving forward? We invite you to share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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