As the old joke goes, “Dogs have owners, cats have staff.” Live Science tells us this stereotype of a cat’s independent nature might have some scientific backing. New research suggests that felines do not form a childlike dependence on humans the way dogs do.
This doesn’t mean that cats don’t bond with their owners, said Daniel Mills lead author and veterinary behavioral medicine researcher at the University of Lincoln in England. Cats are capable of love, but they don’t look for their owners to be a source of safety and security.
This is not about whether cats love their owners.
The relationships built between animals and their humans are based on different properties. While dogs clearly seek out security and safety, cats are looking for a food source. “I’m sure you know someone whose cat moved in with the neighbor who started to feed it,” said Dr. Mills.
Animal-human relationships may be built on different priorities–for dogs clearly safety and security are important, but this is not the case in cats. It seems cats are much more resource focused… I’m sure you know someone whose cat moved in with their neighbor who started to feed it (rather than offered it shelter and protection).
The study was patterned after a classic psychology experiment known as “strange situation,” reports The Huffington Post. In the experiment — developed by American-Canadian psychologist Mary Ainsworth — a child or baby is placed in a room to play by its mother and the child’s reactions are observed when a stranger walks in. The experiment helps scientists study how attached children are to their mothers.
Dr. Mills and his research team placed 20 cats in an unfamiliar room and then observed the cats behavior when they were left alone in the room; either by themselves, with a stranger, or their owner. The cats for the study were selected based on owners who said their felines were particularly attached to them.
Other than vocalizing their disdain with a few more meows when their owners left them in the room with a stranger, the researchers didn’t notice any other evidence to suggest the cats were strongly attached to their humans.
The meows could have been a simple sign of frustration or even learned response, explains Mills. “. . . no other signs of attachment were reliably seen.”
This vocalization might simply be a sign of frustration or learned response, since no other signs of attachment were reliably seen.
Mills adds that cats are primarily independent hunters, while dogs tend to hunt in packs in the wild; making cats naturally more independent while canines seek out others to meet their needs.
In an unrelated study, researchers claim that dogs evolutionized differently from cats due to climate change.