Yes, your cat does love you back—just ask scientists
Whether you love them or loathe them, everyone can agree that cats are fickle creatures. They claw, scratch, bite, and some prefer to sleep over spending quality time with their humans. Dog people like to joke that cats would have no qualms about eating their owners if they were to die without leaving cat food out…which, like, sure. Even if you’re a cat person, the internet is abound with jokes about cats being aloof and indifferent to their owners. We get it. Our cats don’t like us. Or…do they?
According to a new study published in the journal Current Biology, cats aren’t nearly as heartless as popular culture may have us think. Researchers from Oregon State University found that cats actually form attachments to their owners similar to those between dogs and humans and babies and their caregivers.
“We took [attachment styles] from other previous studies and just thought, ‘Do cats actually fit these different styles or not?’” lead study author Kristyn Vitale, a postdoctoral fellow at Oregon State University, said per NBC News. To find out, they altered a parent-infant bond situational test from the 1970s and applied it to 108 cats (70 kittens and 38 adult felines) and their owners.
The study watched the cats’ reactions to their owners’ return after being separated for several minutes. The cats would either show “secure attachment” or “insecure attachment” styles.
Secure attachments show that a subject trusts its caregiver and feels comfortable exploring its surroundings while in the caregiver’s presence.
“The characteristics of a secure cat, for example, [are] greeting their owner and then going back to what they were doing,” Vitale told NBC News. “That’s how a secure human also behaves.”
Insecure subjects fear or are anxious around their caregivers. Insecure cats twitched their tails, licked their lips, and avoided their owners when they returned to the room.
However, the researchers found that 64% of the cats studied were securely attached to their owners, which is a similar percentage to that of dogs.
“The majority of cats are looking to their owners to be a source of safety and security. It’s important for owners to think about that,” Vitale said. “When they’re in a stressful situation, how they’re behaving can actually have a direct impact on their cats’ behavior.”
So, in order for your cat to love you, not only should you be their source of food, but also be a source of comfort for them. When you’re calm and kind, they will be calm and kind in return (in theory, that is).