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Do Cats Get Attached to Their Owners?

Dec 21, 2021 | AZPetVet, Cat

Grey Tabby Cat Sitting On A Shoulder At The Girl

Do Cats Love Their Owners?

Yes! Cats do love their humans, even if sometimes they have a funny way of showing it. In fact, they form strong attachments to their owners and display their emotions very similar to humans. 

Just like people, cats can show their love through understanding and concern for others. In some instances, they have been known to risk their lives for their owners, protecting them from dangers like poisonous snakes or other hazards. Cats can also detect when their owner is upset and will often console them or, in some cases, even lick away their tears! Some cases exist where an owner left or passed away, and the cat exhibited signs of distress like sitting and meowing at the owner’s bedroom door, going into hiding, even refusing to eat. But perhaps some of the most incredible evidence that cats do get attached to their owners is in the cases where cats have traveled miles upon miles to places they’ve never been in order to find their person.

Affectionate Cat Behavior

If our cat isn’t traveling cross country for us, how do we know they love us? What are some telltale signs and affectionate cat behavior? Well, cats have a reputation for being aloof and rather unaffectionate, but the truth is, that’s not always the case! They just show their love in many different ways. You might mistake their request for attention as a request for food, or you may see their tail standing up and assume it’s a sign of hostility rather than affection. Here are some other examples of affectionate cat behavior:

– Headbutting and rubbing the sides of their face on you
– Rubbing up against your ankles
– Jumping up on counters/furniture to get closer to you
– Kneading (some call it “making muffins”)
– Purring
– Trills
– Mews
– Chirps
– Curling up in your lap
– Grooming/licking
– Happy/excited to see you

The Science

A study published in the journal Current Biology did a deep dive into this topic and discovered that cats see their owners as more than just a source of food; they are also a source of security and comfort, too. The research found that cats form attachments with their humans similar to those that dogs and even babies form!

The study utilized 108 cats — 38 adults and 70 kittens — and placed them in a room with their owners individually. The owner would leave the room after a few minutes, then return, and the cat’s response to their return was recorded to determine the type of attachment style it had to its owner (secure or insecure attachments). 

The results showed that around 64% of the cats were secure in their attachment, trusting that their owner would look after their needs. This also debunked the myths that cats are solely standoffish, emotionally distant, and unable to bond with their humans. 

“We’re looking at cats through dog-colored glasses,” said cat behavior and wellness expert Jackson Galaxy to NBC News in response to the research, and he’s absolutely right! Most cats won’t wag their tail or jump excitedly as you walk through the door, but they are capable of loving us, bonding with us, and attaching to us nonetheless.

Disclaimer: Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.