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Do cats get attached to their owners?

Owner with ca giving a kiss

Can a get get attached to its owner?

© Shutterstock

We love our cats, but we've all looked at them at least once and thought, 'Does my cat even like me?' After all, felines have a reputation for being distant and aloof.

By Karen Wild, CCAB Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist

Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:36

So are cats attached to owners or do they see us as nothing more than a giant treat dispenser? Do they only snuggle us to get something in return or is there a well of love and affection hiding underneath that icy exterior? Let's find out!

Do cats actually love their owners?

Love is a complex emotion, and we are never certain how to define it. It's something we all feel, and yet it's something that we find really difficult to explain. But, broadly speaking, love is a combination of intense feelings of affection, protectiveness, warmth, and respect for another person, animal, or even just an idea.

Does my cat love me? ©Unsplash

Do cats like their owners?

So while we'll never really know if kitties can 'love,' we can assume that the attachment to their owners shows that cats have an emotional connection to humans. We can see this in the way they express and receive affection, and in how they react when they favourite humans go away.  There is an attachment of some sort, but quite what that means to the cat, we aren’t certain.

Do cats miss their owner if the owner gives them away?

There are many cases where cats showed signs of what humans may describe as heartbreak. It’s easier to think of it as ‘loss’.  Lonely cats can lose their appetite, go into hiding, or spend hours meowing by the front door as they wait for their owners to come home! There are even some instance of cats sinking into severe depressions if their owner gives them anyway to someone else. Cats learn routines and expectations, so if these are not met, the cat will react to that feeling of frustration and disappointment too.

Do cats get emotionally attached to their owners like dogs? 

They might not bond with their owners in the same way as dogs, but cats still get emotionally attached to people. They're just a lot more subtle in the way they reveal their feelings.

Look at this cutie! ©Unsplash

What are examples of cats showing care for their humans?

Purring, rubbing their cheeks against you, and even licking you are all positive signs of affection. Remember, cats are cool customers. They don't do public displays of affection. They're far too sophisticated for that! Dogs shout 'I love you,' but a kitty prefers to whisper those three magic words!

Do cats have a bond with their owner like dogs? 

Cats form strong bonds with their owners, and now we've got the science to prove it! Previous research hinted at the feline/human connection, but more recent studies at the University of Oregon have revealed it runs much deeper than we thought.

Published in the journal Current Biology, one study looked at two different styles of emotional connection (secure attachment and insecure attachment) in 70 kittens and 38 adult cats.

As part of the study, kittens spent two minutes with their caregiver, followed by two minutes alone. They were then reunited for two minutes. The study shows that cats with secure attachments displayed fewer stress indicators after being reunited with their owners. Around 35% of the cats remained stressed, proving that the majority of cats get a large amount of emotional and physical comfort from just being around their primary caregivers.

This experiment was also replicated with dogs and children. Scientists found a similar distribution in the secure and insecure attachments with children and a slight increase in insecure attachments when it came to dogs. In other words, the bond between cats and humans resemble the relationship between a parent and child. So no wonder we call them our fur babies.

Do cats fall out with their owners?

Cats are independent creatures who will always need some alone time. But while they may not show it all the time, it turns out they love us (or at least like us) almost as much as we love them.

If we have done something the cat didn’t like, perhaps we had to examine their teeth, or put them into a cat carrier for a Vet visit, it’s likely that they will be a little suspicious of us for a while. However, as long as we aren’t constantly upsetting them, they will most likely return to their old ways.

Why do cats like to sleep with their owners?

Some cats are naturally shy and enjoy their own space, whereas others seek physical contact and want to sleep on our pillows! It’s most likely a combination of warmth, safety and of course, they can get us to feed them when they want if they aren’t shut out of the room…

How do cats choose their human?

Some cats are especially affectionate to certain members of the household. A lot depends on what that person means to the cat. It may be that this human provides all their food and comfort, and treats them in a way the cat appreciates.

What do cats think about their owners?

This can be hard to determine, but if the cat wants to spend time with you, it’s pretty clear they enjoy being around you. SOmetimes they want their own space for a while, but as long as they are fit and well, allow them to find their own balance.

So the next time your kitty seems a bit aloof, don't worry. They'll be back for some more chin strokes and cuddles as soon as they start missing you. After all, you're their favourite human!