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Are cats loyal to their owners?

Grey cat with blue eyes in owner's arms advice

Is a cat loyal?

© Shutterstock

Cat owners will naturally say their cat exhibits ‘secure attachment’. But how do we know whether cats really see us as secure? Does the domestic cat crave our company and wish only to stay by our side? Let’s take a look at some of the tell-tale signs of a cat’s mythical neediness.

By Nick Whittle

Published on the 18/02/2020, 15:00

Two years ago The Mirror headlined with, “Dogs have had their day - cats are now man’s best friend.” Then there appeared to be truth in the notion that cats are in fact as loyal and as much in need of companionship as dogs. Here we talk about the loyalty of cats (or lack thereof), and how “loyalty” means something far different when see of a cat. We don’t make too many comparisons with dogs for the simple reason that our focus is more on feline temperament. Read on to discover why cats may not be as standoffish and as independent as we may think.

How do I know if my cat really loves me?

“Love”: a complicated notion, especially when we talk about animals. None of us can tell whether our pet (dog, cat, tortoise, etc.) truly loves us. That is because love is something we humans have created. We believe that a parent loves a child and that a wife loves her husband, and to that end we mean that there is an emotional bond between them that is intense and unbreakable.

But of animals we cannot say whether the same love is felt. We may say that a dog loves us, but we cannot be certain that what it feels is anything close to the human idea of love. We can only imagine that it loves us because it does not run and hide when it sees us and it likes to be in our company. To this end, it may help our case if we can tell when a cat is happy to have us in their life.

Scottish fold cat in owner's arm
Are cats loyal pets? ©Shutterstock

Here are five signs of a cat happy in our company:

A happy cat purrs

The happy cat purrs in your company. She trusts you, and to have you close makes her feel safe and sound. The only other time a queen cat will purr is when it has kittens. Think yourself lucky!

A happy cat brings gifts

Male and female cats will bring what we think are offerings to us. However, they are not so much for us as they are to garnish the place in which the cat lives. If a cat feels comfortable in its surroundings she will bring the outside in.

A happy cat shadows your moves

A cat that shadows you is of course content with your company. She trusts you implicitly and believes you and her are equal. As you go about your daily chores your cat imagines that you are undertaking an adventure together.

A happy cat kneads you!

A cat kneads when it is happy and relaxed. Kneading stems from an action the cat learned as a very young kitten to tease milk from its mother’s teat. Rather like us sucking our thumb, kneading is a sign of your cat’s emotional pleasure.

Writes John Bradshaw in his thesis on cat behaviour “Cat Sense”: “By accepting our petting, cats are doing more than enjoying themselves: in their minds, they are almost certainly engaging in a social ritual that is reinforcing the bond with their owner.”

A happy cat stares at you

A slow blink from your cat is a sure sign of her trust in you and her happiness. Do not forget to return the compliment (she will understand).

You would like to know if your cat is happy? Check out these 10 signs and find out

How do I know if my cat is loyal?

Cats appear to be independent creatures that for most of the time are aloof. But it would be wrong of us to assume that cats view us as inferior beings. They do not. A cat imagines itself to be an equal, which is why it is so difficult to get them to do tricks as we may a dog. Whatever a cat does they do due to their want to do it. The same is said of their loyalty: a cat will be ‘loyal’ to its owner if she considers the owner worthy of her loyalty.

A sign of a cat’s loyalty is more clearly seen of her reaction to routines, such as dinner times, grooming and bed times. If, when you carry out tasks amid a routine you notice your cat staring at you, she trusts you and feels a sense of loyalty to you.

Do cats make good loyal pets?

It is generally thought to be the case that cats are loyal. But they are loyal in a different way from, for example, dogs. Cats are autonomous and freer creatures that don’t rely on humans as much as dogs. Their loyalty is a sort of ‘repayment’ for your loyalty. If you look after your cat and provide its needs it will want to be beside you and to remain in your life. However, if you do not give your cat what it demands then it can easily turn its back on you.

Kristyn Vitale, researcher at Oregon State University says of the bond between humans and cats, “Attachment is a biologically relevant behaviour. Our study indicates that when cats live in a state of dependency with a human, that attachment behaviour is flexible and the majority of cats use humans as a source of comfort.”

Are cats as loyal as dogs?

A cat is not as needy as a dog. Dogs are so completely reliant on human beings for their food, shelter and emotional attachment. True, cats demand an emotional connection with us, but they are not as desperate for it. Instead, their seeing us as equal makes them more possessive; it is that possession of us that causes your cat’s sense of loyalty.

Cats do not move in packs. In the wild, big males cats are solitary, and a young family is usually cared for by the female of the species. Dogs on the other hand move in packs, and rely on other dogs around them for direction, safety and discipline. Crucially, in a pack habitat there is usually one alpha character to whom every other animal looks for guidance. These differences in the evolution of the cat and the dog are what lead us to the present day differences.

In order to enjoy the loyalty of your cat you must first provide for it. However, you cannot assume that the cat will think of you as its boss just because you feed it. You must also walk together as friends, play, explore and cuddle in order to gain feline trust and loyalty.

A loyal cat will care about you, and will be possessive of you because it sees you as an equal. But it will only do so when it wants to. Treat a cat well and you will reap the rewards of a loving and loyal cat, but fail to treat it well and your cat will not only see you as an unworthy friend; it may even consider you an enemy. In which case, your relationship will not be a happy one.

Do you think cats get emotionally attached to their owner? Read on to find out