Our complicated relationship with cats

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The Guardian newspaper published an article titled “Our complicated relationship with cats” which reported: ” A study in 2010 asked 4,500 people to self-identify as either a dog person, cat person, both or neither, and looked at five personality traits using a self-report questionnaire. People who identified themselves as cat people showed significantly higher scores for neuroticism and openness than dog people, and significantly lower scores for extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness. In other words, we (I’m a cat person) tend to stress more, be more open to a variety of experiences, but show poorer self-discipline, cooperativeness and assertiveness.

And according to another survey from 2010, people who are more highly educated were 1.4 times more likely to own a cat than a dog. This doesn’t mean that cat people are smarter than dog people, more that there’s a link between higher education and longer work hours. Cats are less time-consuming than dogs, and so people who work longer hours will be more likely to choose cats as pets to fit in with their work life.”

But a 2007 study by Claudia Edwards and colleagues in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour looked at attachment in cats, and found behaviour consistent with that which you would see in young children.

Attachment theory was developed in the late 1950s as way of characterising affectionate bonds between two individuals, one of which is usually a caregiver. The creation of such a bond between a parent and child, for instance, makes it more likely that the child’s basic needs are met, and the child tends to relax around the caregiver. On the other hand, if the child is placed in the company of a stranger, they might become more anxious, upset with their caregiver, or distressed in some way. Similarly, Edwards’ study found that when cats were in the company of their owners, they tended to show more relaxed attachment behaviours such as wandering around, exploring and playing in their environment. When they were placed with a stranger instead, the cats meowed less, and spent more time waiting by the door.

So maybe cats aren’t as aloof as we first thought.

Read the full article in The Guardian newspaper here.

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