Sep
14
2015

Cats are known for being independent. That said, does home give them a sense of safety and security? Do they pine away for their owners when left alone? Not necessarily, a new study suggests.

The study, by researchers from the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom, was published on September 2 in PLOS ONE. It showed that cats don’t attach to their owners for reasons of safety and security. Yes, cats prefer their owners to strangers but it’s unclear why, be it to fulfill a social need or merely a result of incidental interactions. Additionally, a cat’s sociality exists on a continuum; it varies between individuals and skews toward independence.

The study questioned the Ainsworth Strange Situation Test (SST) previously adapted to cats and which showed that cats looked to their owners for safety and security, as did dogs and children. Researchers then adapted the SST, this time with methodological and other behavior controls in place, and ran both adaptations.

Twenty cat-owner pairs were divided into two groups to test both versions of the SST, and owners and their cats, and strangers and the cats, were videotaped. The study assessed how a cat responded to a series of procedures that altered the level and form of social support available, or triggered seeking out an attachment figure.

The researchers note that the short time cats have been domesticated compared to dogs, and cats’ natural independent social systems, contribute to their independent predispositions.

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