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Don’t Worry, Your Cats Do LOVE You… They Just Don’t NEED You, Study Says

Dogs are a [wo]man’s best friend and develop a strong attachment to their owners. Cats, on the other hand, have shown to be more distant and autonomous.

Does your cat go into hiding and only come out when it’s feeding time? Does it run under the bed or behind the couch when something frightens it, instead of into your arms? Does your cat hate cuddling with you, no matter how hard you try to force the issue? If these things sound familiar to you, you may be begging to understand why, while yelling to your cat, “WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME?!?!??!” The good news is, your cat, in fact, does love you…but just doesn’t need you.

But why?

Researchers have discovered that the reason behind this is because cats don’t see their owners as a source of safety and security in the same way dogs do. More specifically, they say that cats don’t suffer from separation anxiety, and that any noise they make when their owners leave the house is more likely to be out of boredom or frustration.

Previous research has indicated that some cats show signs of separation anxiety when left alone by their owners, just like dogs do, but the results of this new study show they are still much more independent.

The study was led by Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioral Medicine at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences.

A test known as the Ainsworth Strange Situation Test (SST) has been commonly used to express that the bond between children and dogs to their primary care-taker usually meets the requirements of what’s known as a “secure attachment.”

Professor Mills used an adapted version of the SST to test this theory on cats.

In the experiment, the relationships between 20 cats and their owners were heavily observed, putting the felines in an abnormal environment with their owner, a stranger, and also on their own.

It assessed three different characteristics of attachment: the level of passive behavior, the amount of contact sought by the cat, and signs of distress when the owner had left.

No evidence was found that would suggest that the bond between a cat and its owner is one of secure attachment.

The study states: “No significant differences were found in the duration of time cats spent expressing exploration/locomotion in the presence of the owner compared to the stranger. Likewise there were no significant differences in the duration of time cats spent playing with their owner compared to playing with the stranger. In addition there was no significant difference in the amount cats played with the stranger when the owner was present and when the owner was absent.”

“Our findings don’t disagree with the notion that cats develop social preferences or close relationships, but they do show that these relationships do not appear to be typically based on a need for safety and security,” Mills said.

The results show that while cats may prefer to interact with their owner, they don’t rely on them for reassurance when in an unknown environment. Researchers believe this is because of the nature of the species as a largely independent and solitary hunter.

If your cat doesn’t exactly want to cuddle up with you, don’t be offended. This study should still come as a compliment because cats wouldn’t live in an unhappy home, they’d just walk out! So just because our little feline friends may not always be very affectionate, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love us!

The research was published in the online journal PLOS One.

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