Pets

Study finds cats have had a bad rap - they actually care about us quite a lot

So misunderstood...

By Karyn Henger
We'd probably all agree that dogs are loyal - cats, not so much.
Even with some cats being as cuddly as they are, the general consensus would still hold that a moggy is more likely to throw you shade than lick your face.
And, to be honest, it wasn't easy finding images for this story that showed cats looking like they wanted to be hugged by their owners.
But new research nevertheless suggests that we've been underestimating our feline friends' ability to care for others - that they are, in fact, purrfectly capable of growing very fond of us, and showing us that.
The findings, published in the journal Current Biology, come from a study by Oregon State University which showed that cats form very real bonds with their human caretakers, just like children and dogs.
Researcher Kristyn Vitale explains, "Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans.
"The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment."
What that means is that domestic cats are just as pleased to have us in their lives as dogs are - they might just be a little more cool about the way that they show it.
This revelation was reached by running a test that has been useful in studying human attachment behaviour.
In the test an infant's behaviour is observed when they're put in a 'novel environment' with their caregiver, then are briefly left alone before being reunited with their caregiver again. When the caregiver returns, secure infants relax while insecure individuals show clingy or avoidance behavior.
The same test has produced similar results in primates and dogs, so Vitale and her colleagues decided to try it with cats.
They put an adult cat or kitten in a novel room with their caregiver for two minutes then left the cat alone for two minutes alone then had the caregiver return again.
The cats' responses to seeing their owners again were classified into attachment styles and what the researchers found surprised them: In 65 per cent of cases the cats demonstrated behaviour that showed they were securely attached to their person and that result mirrors exactly what happens when this test is done with humans.
Of course this won't be news to the true cat lover.
As I write this I think of my cat who, admittedly, treats me with disdain but follows my middle daughter everywhere, much like a devoted dog would.
Some cat lovers take their moggies on holiday; I even know of one who takes her kitty paddle boarding.
The connection is real, people.
But for the skeptical, maybe this is the proof you need that your cat really does love you.