When it comes to the battle of America’s favorite pet, cats often face a losing battle. After all, cats have the reputation of being aloof, they like to be pet in very specific ways, and will often display a teenager-like tendency to shy away from showing affection.
Meanwhile, dogs do not suffer from this problem and are hailed for their excitement at seeing their owners. However, a new study covered in Popular Science showed that despite appearances, cats love their humans just as much as dogs do and maybe even more, even if they don’t show it much.
That is not to say that cats haven’t had their moments in popularity. Cats have sailed with Vikings, lived in medieval monasteries, and were hailed by Ancient Egyptians. Though more people have dogs than cats in the United States, there are more cats total that are owned as pets.
Now, it appears there is a scientific basis for why cats have been the source of so much love.
A recent study focused on cat attachment by looking at bonding styles in the same way the scientists look at dogs and babies. It had never been tested on cats before, and Kristyn Vitale, who studies cat behavior at Oregon State University, sought to find answers on how cats think of humans.
Scientists already knew that both dogs and babies display three basic attachment styles. The first is secure, which means that dogs and babies see their parents or owners as a source of security and confidence.
The second is known as avoidant-insecure, which means that babies and dogs will stay away from their parent or owner because they do not find they offer safety.
The third is called ambivalent-insecure. Though babies and dogs will want attention from their caregiver, the caregiver is nonetheless not able to offer genuine security.
The study under Vitale tested these attachment styles on cats by taking cats (and kittens) and their owners to an unfamiliar room. The owner would relax with his or her pet for two minutes and then leave. This was to exert mild stress on the cat.
The owner would then return, and scientists noted the cats’ reactions, using different coding systems to see if cats could be classified as anxious or not.
The researchers found that around 65 percent of both the cats and kittens studied displayed secure attachment to their human. When their owner returned, these cats did not display any signs of stress and were either confident enough to explore their surroundings or happy to relax with their owner.
Meanwhile, 35 percent were found to have an insecure attachment style, with a majority of that number demanding an abundance of attention once their human returned.
This is similar to how babies reacted with their parents, per Science Alert. Sixty-five percent of infants showed a secure attachment with their parents.
But most surprisingly is that the rates of secure attachment in cats are greater than that in dogs. In similar studies, it has been shown that most canines are 61 percent secure and 39 percent insecure.
“I think there’s this idea that cats don’t really depend on their owner and need them,” Vitale said of her results. “But at least in this test, what we’re seeing is that most cats use their owner for their sense of security.”
So, in sum, cats really really love their humans. It’s a good thing to remember next time your cat ignores you (and, yes, it’s definitely ignoring you).