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Cats have more attachment to humans than previously thought – study

Special bond: New research says cats may like us more than we think. ISTOCK

Cats have more attachment to humans than previously thought – study

New research says we've underestimated our feline friends all along, so what makes them so emotionally attached to us?

Cats have more attachment to humans than previously thought – study

The depth and complexity of the emotional attachment of cats to humans is greater than previously thought, according to a new study.

In the journal Current Biology, domestic cats were shown to have a social and cognitive bond with their human caregivers in the same way as infants and dogs.

The findings suggest that cats’ attachment to humans, and their emotional security and dependence, may have been underestimated.

Much like children and dogs, pet cats form either secure or insecure bonds with their human caretakers, the research shows.

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“Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans,” said Kristyn Vitale of Oregon State University. “The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment.”

What’s more this bonding ability across different cat species appears to be explained by traits that aren’t shared by canines, and therefore specific to the feline race.

In the experiment, a fully-grown cat or kitten spent two minutes in a new room accompanied by their caregiver followed by two minutes alone.

The adult would then return for a two-minute reunion. The cats’ responses to seeing their owners again were categorised into different types of “attachment”.

The results illustrated that the bond between cats and their caregivers was surprisingly similar to that of babies or infants.

In humans, 65 per cent of infants are considered “securely attached” to their primary caregiver – normally the mother.

In this study, “domestic cats mirrored this very closely,” Vitale says.

In fact the experiment brought up the exact same result of 65 per cent, among both kittens and cats, as “securely bonded” to their human owner.

Vitale hopes the findings can shed further light on the bond between cats and humans, and what help it can provide to cats in shelter care.

“We’re currently looking at several aspects of cat attachment behavior, including whether socialization and fostering opportunities impact attachment security in shelter cats,” Vitale said.

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