A recent study, led by Kurt Kotrschal of the Konrad Lorenz Research Station and the University of Vienna, has revealed some not-so-surprising data concerning cats and their relationship with their owners. The bond between cats and their owners turns out to be far more intense than imagined, especially for cat aficionado women and their affection reciprocating felines, suggests a new study.
Researchers videotaped and analyzed interactions between 41 cats and their owners over lengthy periods. Behavior of both the cat and owner were recorded and analyzed. Owner and cat personalities were also assessed in a separate test. For the cat assessment, the authors placed a stuffed owl toy with large glass eyes on a floor so the feline would encounter it by surprise.
The researchers determined that:
- Cats and their owners strongly influence each other, to such a degree that they were each often controlling the other's behaviors.
- Extroverted women with young, active cats enjoyed the greatest synchronicity, with cats in these relationships only having to use subtle cues, such as a single upright tail move, to signal desire for friendly contact.
- While cats have plenty of male admirers, and vice versa, this study (and others) revealed that women tend to interact with their cats more than men do.
- Relationships between cats and their owners mirror human bonds, especially when the owner is a woman.
- Cats hold some control over when they are fed and handled, functioning very similar to human children in some households.
- While the age, sex and personality of owners affect these relationships, the sex of the cat doesn't seem to matter.
- Cats seem to remember kindness and return the favors later. If owners comply with their feline's wishes to interact, then the cat will often comply with the owner's wishes at other times. The cat may also "have an edge in this negotiation," since owners are usually already motivated to establish social contact.
Although there are isolated instances of cats bonding with non-human animals, such as gorillas and deer,
it is usually unique for only humans to engage in social relationships with other animals.
The study is the first to show in detail that the dynamics underlying cat-human relationships are nearly identical to human-only bonds, with cats sometimes even becoming a furry "child" in nurturing homes.
Differences Between Male and Female Owners
- Cats approach female owners more frequently, and initiate contact more frequently (such as jumping on laps) than they do with male owners.
- Female owners have more intense relationships with their cats than do male owners.
"A relationship between a cat and a human can involve mutual attraction, personality compatibility, ease of interaction, play, affection and social support," co-author Dorothy Gracey of the University of Vienna explained. "A human and a cat can mutually develop complex ritualized interactions that show substantial mutual understanding of each other's inclinations and preferences."
Cats could very well be man's -- and woman's -- best friend.