Um, cats may just be sociopaths after all
I can’t count the number of times my cat has snuggled on my lap, brushed her face against mine, meowed until I’ve picked her up. Many cat owners share my love for our feline friends — and many, like me, have a wardrobe and accessory drawer full of cat-inspired items and may or may not have considered running away to join the cat circus because of just how much love we feel for our kitties.
But according to Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, our cats don’t really need or return our love in the same way we give it, even if it can sometimes seem like they do. His study consisted of 20 cats being placed in an unfamiliar setting three times: once with a stranger, once with their owner, and once simply on their own. In conclusion, Mills found that “We didn’t see any additional evidence to suggest that the bond between a cat and its owner is one of secure attachment.”
Cue heart-shattering noises everywhere. As a cat person who loves her own cat so much she has sorted her into a Hogwarts house (Hufflepuff, FYI), I refuse to believe this. Because when your cat leaves you dead bugs instead of letting them potentially crawl on you while you sleep, that’s true love in my eyes.
But Mills insists we’re duped, saying “Previous research has suggested that some cats show signs of separation anxiety when left alone by their owners in the same way that dogs do. [But] the results of our study show that…what we interpret as separation anxiety might actually be signs of frustration.” Frustration that they aren’t getting enough hugs from their owner, Mr. Mills? PROBABLY.
But even though science has stated that cats clearly know what’s up more than dogs do, Mills goes on to say that “For pet dogs, their owners often represent a specific safe haven; however, it is clear that domestic cats are much more autonomous when it comes to coping with unusual situations.” So, fine, cats don’t technically need us. But isn’t that part of their appeal in the first place?
Celia Haddon — cat expert, author of multiple cat-related works including One Hundred Ways to a Happy Cat and Cats Behaving Badly, and my new hero — definitely thinks so. Though there is now this evidence that cats don’t love us in the same way that dogs do, they still like having us around and can feel affection toward us, and Haddon assures us that we shouldn’t feel unloved by our kitties. She says the study actually emphasizes that while cats don’t need human companionship, they’re also apt to hide or otherwise withdraw if they feel like they’re in a negative environment.
“Cats are not pack animals,” Haddon stated of Mills’ findings. “They don’t depend on other cats. So they are not going to depend on their owners. But it doesn’t meant that they don’t want to be around their owners. This shows that they really do.”
All the cat-heart-eyes emojis.
(Image via iStock)