"In both dogs and cats, attachment to humans may represent an adaptation of the offspring-caretaker bond", co-author Kristyn Vitale said in a statement. "When they're in a stressful situation, how they're behaving can actually have a direct impact on their cats' behavior".
'But the majority of cats use their owner as a source of security.
Cats have a reputation for being fiercely independent-ask any cat lover, and they'll tell you that some kitties rarely show any interest in playing with them or showing them affection, save for mealtime.
The test is broken down into three two-minute phases.
Researchers studied the felines by having cats and kittens individually spend two minutes in a room with their owner or caregiver.
Secure attachments indicate that the subject trusts that its caregiver will look after its needs, and it feels comfortable exploring its surroundings.
The pioneering research overturns the belief that cats are aloof and detached from their owners, in contrast to doting canines. For example, they continued to explore the room while also interacting with their owner. On the other hand, cats with an insecure attachment show signs of stress such as twitching their tail and licking their lips, and either stay away from the person (avoidance) or cling to them by jumping in their lap and not moving (ambivalence).
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Behavioral experts watched recordings of the tests and classified the cats' actions. It turned out that out of the 70 observed cats, 64.3% fell under the secure attachment style, and 35.7% as insecurely attached.
The reseacher's cat, named Treacle, "vocalised less outside than she did in the house, and the pitch of the vocalisations was different". Previous research on rhesus monkeys (the controversial wire mother experiments reported in 1958) and dogs (a much more ethically sound experiment reported last year) had shown that both species form secure and insecure attachments.
The bonding revelation gives the researchers hope for how many cats could be placed in homes in the future, especially given how many cats and kittens are present in animal shelters. They found no significant differences.
Researchers, interested in whether socialization would change the data, conducted a six-week training course.
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"Once an attachment style has been established between the cat and its caregiver, it appears to remain relatively stable over time, even after a training and socialization intervention", Vitale said.
Cats, like most domesticated animals, retain several juvenile traits into maturity and remain dependent on humans for care, according to Dr Vitale.
One revealing way to study human attachment behavior is to observe an infant's response to a reunion with their caregiver following a brief absence in a novel environment.
The study took into account the cat's behavior during the reunion to evaluate the animal's attachment style.
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