Domestic cats don’t generally view their owners as a focal point of safety like dogs do, according to a new study by British scientists.
The study by animal behavior experts at the University of Lincoln shows that while dogs perceive their owners as a secure base, the relationship between humans and cats is very different from what most small cat owners claim.
While there is growing recognition that cats are more social and relational than traditionally thought, recent research shows that adult cats themselves appear to be more autonomous in their social relationships, and do not necessarily rely on others to give them a sense of protection.
“The domestic cat has recently overtaken the dog as the most popular pet in Europe, and many see the cat as the ideal pet for owners who work late hours. Previous research has shown that just like dogs, some cats show signs of separation anxiety when separated from their owners. However, the results of our study show that they are actually much more independent. “It appears that what we interpret as separation anxiety could actually be signs of malaise or dysthymia,” said Professor Mills, who led the study.
The researchers examined the relationships between a number of cats and their owners by placing the pets in an unfamiliar environment with their owner, a stranger, and alone. For the different scenarios, they assessed three distinct characteristics of attachment to the owner: the degree of contact the cat seeks, the degree of passive behavior, and signs of stress caused by the owner’s absence.
Although the cats responded more strongly when their owners left them, the researchers found no further evidence that their attachment was a security relationship.
The results of the study showed that while cats prefer to interact with their owners, they do not rely on them to calm them down in an unfamiliar environment. Researchers theorize that this is largely due to the species’ nature as independent and solitary hunters.