Why do cats ignore us

Cuddle or ignore : Cats bond with their owners like children bond with their parents

Cats attach to their caregivers in a similar way that small children attach to their parents. This was shown by researchers working with Kristyn Vitale from the US Oregon State University in Corvallis with an experiment whose structure is based on the classic studies on parent-child bonding. You present the study in the journal "Current Biology".

Most cats showed a distinct type of attachment

Instead of small children and their mothers, the scientists observed 79 cats aged three to eight months and their owners. Initially, the owners were alone with their cat in a camera-monitored room for two minutes. Then they had to leave the animals alone for two minutes before coming back into the room.

The cats reacted differently to the situation, but 70 of the 79 cats could be clearly assigned to a certain type or style of attachment based on their behavior - and this type of attachment corresponds to the types that have already been discovered in comparable studies in humans and dogs.

Safe base or ignorance?

The researchers found four clearly distinguishable bonding styles in the cats that are already known from other species. For many cats the stress eased immediately with the return of the owners; after the separation they sought the proximity of the owner and then continued to explore the room. As with other species, this was referred to as "secure attachment" in the study. The owner evidently provided a secure base, with the support of which cats trusted themselves to face new situations.

After the owner's return, other cats continued to be anxious and particularly clingy, they never left the side of their owners - this was known as an "insecure-ambivalent bond". Still others paid little attention to the returning owner ("unsafe-avoidant bond"). In a fourth group, feelings appeared to be in conflict between wanting to be close and avoiding ("disorganized attachment").

Two out of three cats tied securely

The researchers rated the last three bonding patterns as an expression of an insecure bond. A total of 64.3 percent of the young cats were securely tied, 35.7 percent unsafe. The scientists emphasize that the bonding behavior of the cats in the test situation changed only insignificantly even after six weeks of behavior training, in which some of the cats were included and which was intended to intensify the bond between cats and owners: 68 were found in this second run , 6 percent of cats tied as safe, 31.4 percent as unsafe.

The authors of the study conclude that the type of attachment in cats is also genetically influenced. When the researchers repeated the experiment with 38 adult cats, a very similar percentage distribution was found, which shows that the attachment behavior of cats remains stable beyond their youth.

Social flexibility may have benefited cats

Another aspect is also important: tests show that 65 percent of human children are securely tied, and 58 percent of dogs. "Domestic cats mirror this in a very similar way," Vitale said in a statement. Their social flexibility could also have paved the way for cats into people's households. Vitale also points out that their findings indicate that the majority of cats are securely bound and that their owner is a source of comfort and security for them. The prejudice that all cats are shy and distant may have developed because the behavior of insecure-bound cats was generalized.

The experiment with cats, also known as the "Strange Situation Test", goes back to the American-Canadian psychologist Mary Ainsworth (1913-1999). Ainsworth developed the test procedure for toddlers and their mothers in the late 1960s, describing the different types of attachment. Their results are still significant for attachment research to this day. (dpa)

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