Ark-Valley Humane Society Logo

by Judy Hamontre

Ark-Valley Humane Society

Cats have a reputation for being aloof. Research shows that may not be the case. They are social creatures capable of forming bonds with people.

In a 2017 study at Oregon State University, Dr. Kristyn Vitale and her colleagues found that a majority of cats preferred interacting with a person over eating or playing with a toy.

A 2019 study revealed that cats adjusted their behavior according to how much attention a person gave them. Other investigations have discovered that cats are sensitive to human emotion and mood and know their names.

A question remained as to whether or not cats formed true attachments to their owners. Dr. Vitale and her colleagues designed a “secure-base” test similar to ones used for dog and infant attachment to find an answer.

Owners of 79 kittens and 38 adult cats one by one went into an unfamiliar room with their pets. After two minutes the owners left. Their animals were alone, a potentially stressful situation for them. Two minutes later owners returned for researchers to observe.

Sixty-five percent of the felines came to greet their owners and then went back to exploring the room, frequently returning to their owners. The scientists concluded those kitties and cats were securely attached to their owners.

The 35 percent who did not show secure attachment are similar to the results for dogs and infants. Further experiments showed that subsequent training and socialization of several of the kittens did not lessen their attachment.

Other researchers are chiming in with their pros and cons indicating that more study is needed. There has not been as much research about cats as there has been for dogs, but that is changing.

The results look promising. Science seems to be proving what cat owners know. Cats are affectionate, social and trainable. They are wonderful, loving companions. They might not behave like a dog, but they are not canines. They are felines. There is no need to compare apples and oranges.

To quote my friend about her Maine coon, “I love Hermione, and she loves me. She might seem aloof at times, but she is just putting on a charming act to entertain me.”

Decide for yourself. Come visit the kitties and cats at Ark-Valley Humane Society. See who “attaches” to you. Take that loving fur ball home to make your house warmer this winter. Act now and adopt your “fur-ever” friend.

Judy Hamontre is an Ark-Valley Humane Society volunteer.