New Study Proves Cats Have a Healthier Attachment to Their Humans Than Dogs Do

Sassy has serious affection for you, no matter how she shows it.

If you're a cat owner, you've probably found yourself defending the unique way in which your cat displays affection on more than one occasion. In comparison to the boundless enthusiasm that dogs eagerly express towards their humans, cats often act aloof—even indifferent—towards their primary caregiver. But a new study published in the journal Current Biology says cats are just as bonded to the people who take care of them as dogs and babies are. In fact, they have a healthier way of showing it compared to their canine counterparts.

University of Oregon researchers applied the famous "strange situation" test to 70 kittens between three and eight months old. The test, which was first developed in the 1970s, placed infants and their parents in a room alone, then observed the behavior of the child when the parent left and returned. If the infant seemed visibly upset when the caregiver left, but was relaxed when they came back, it was evidence of a "secure attachment style," i.e. an understanding that they were safe and their parents would be there for them when needed. If the infant ignored their caregiver entirely or continued to act stressed upon their return, it was evidence of an "insecure attachment style," i.e. an anxiety over being abandoned again or a reluctance to bond at all.

In this new experiment from the University of Oregon, cat owners played with their kittens for two minutes, then left the room for two minutes before coming back. Roughly 65 percent of the kittens exhibited signs of a "secure attachment style" after being reunited with their owners, greeting their humans warmly before continuing to go about their business. The other 35 percent showed signs of an "insecure attachment style," either anxiously demanding cuddles or fleeing from physical contact.

These numbers mirror previous research on how infants bond with their parents: Babies have shown 65 percent secure attachment and 35 percent insecure. Dogs, on the other hand, seem to be slightly less healthily attached. In previous research, pups have exhibited 58 percent secure attachment and 42 percent insecure. Looking at those numbers, that actually means cats have more secure attachment than dogs when it comes to their owners.

So, the next time someone tells you that your cat only wants you for food, you can let them know that science says otherwise. And for more on this, check out There's Scientific Proof Cats Adopt Owners' Personalities.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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