A new study tries to provide new insights into cat psychology and a final answer to why cats are not as needy as dogs are. British researchers suggest that that may have something to do with the way the animals perceive their owners.
A group of scientists from the University of Lincoln, in the U.K., argues that canine pets see their masters as a safe base, while cats perceive their relationship with their primary care givers completely different.
Though countless studies had suggested that feline companions are more sociable than they really show, the recent research suggests that cats become more distant and autonomous especially in adult years. And they do it not only in their relationship with their owner but also in the social interactions with other cats.
Unlike dogs, cats are not dependent on their masters when it comes to having a sense of security. Daniel Mills, lead author of the study and animal behavior expert at University of Lincoln, said that people in Europe tend to prefer cats to dogs.
In recent years, cats went on the top position as the most popular companion animal since they are more convenient to many people working long hours. Mills believes that one of the reasons people prefer cats is linked to them not showing signs of separation anxiety when left home alone for hours like dogs do.
Nevertheless, past papers suggested that cats too are distressed when their master is missing for hours, and some of them even show signs of separation anxiety. But University of Lincoln researchers believe that those signs were misinterpreted. In reality, cats display signs of frustration.
In their research, study authors assessed the type of attachment cats develop to their owners. The team used on cats a slightly adapted version of the Ainsworth Strange Situation Test (SST), a test developed in the 1970s which is now widely used by psychologists to asses the type of emotional bond between small children and their primary caregivers.
If the emotional bond is ‘secure’ children can explore the world and feel safe because they know deep within that even if their caregiver is not present, they may return at any time to their safety base.
Researchers observed how cats reacted to an unfamiliar environment when their owner is present, when their owner is absent and a stranger appears, or when they are completely alone. The research team assessed the type of attachment relationship cats had with their caregivers and the signs of distress when the caregiver was not around.
Researchers found that cats are confident enough to explore a new environment even if their master is not present. The team believes that this behavioral pattern is a feature of their species which in the wild acts more like a solitary hunter.
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