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Study: Relationships Between Cats & Humans Mirror Human Bonds

April 30, 2013

And that’s not all. The research shows that cats prefer to buddy up with women, and not (only) because we carry the can openers!

Photo courtesy sustainthetrip.

I actually came across this story a while ago, but I thought it still warranted posting. According to a study in Behavioural Processes, the bond between cats and their pet parents is much more intense than imagined. And while we probably all knew that already, it’s nice for science to take note.

The study found that cat-owner relationships mirrored human relationships, especially when the owner was a woman.

It also found that cats are somewhat controlling in our relationships with them – much like human children in some households – especially when being fed and handled. But I guess we didn’t really need science to tell us that.

As they looked into why cats tend to cozy up to women more, they discovered a few things. While the age, sex, and personality of the owners impacted the human-cat relationship, the sex of the cat didn’t. That may be due to the fact that they found women tend to interact with their cats more than men do, which may contribute to a closer, more intense bond.

Consequently, in some homes, cats become our “furry children.” Since we place them in such high regard, we are often in tune with their needs and desires. In fact, the research found that cats and their owners influence each other, and often control the other one’s behaviors.

From the blog post: “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.”

I guess it really does help to be in tune with your cat’s body language!

Photo courtesy docoverachiever.

A related study also suggests that cats may be more in control of our relationship than we think. They concluded “household cats exercise this control with a certain type of urgent-sounding, high-pitched meow,” but that shouldn’t be too surprising.

As we know, a cats meow largely to communicate with us. We can also encourage this behavior by talking back and giving them what they want, two normal and common responses. (If you think your cat is too chatty, check out this post.)

Again, this research tied similarities between a cat’s cries and a baby’s cries, once again suggesting that our nurturing side wants to attend to anything that cries.

While I think all of these findings certainly have merit, I tend to take a much less scientific approach to my cats. They’re my little buddies. I spend time with them and care for them. Naturally I pick up on their cues and signals for what they need. I think that’s only natural when you’re around another life, whether it’s a plant, cat, or husband. It’s one of the joys of being in a relationship, but I’m still glad that science has taken note.

What do you think? Who does your cat have a closer relationship to in your household? Who spends the most time with your cat? Please share in the comments!

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Lemonmelonn permalink
    April 30, 2013 8:03 am

    Dotty is definitely like a child to me. My sister, who just lost her 16-year old cat a couple of months ago, is going through a terrible grieving process–she just can’t get over the death of her kitty. I wish I knew how to help her. She has another cat already, so getting a new kitten isn’t really an option.

    • April 30, 2013 8:07 am

      Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about your sister. Sometimes, as painful as it is, I think we just need time. You’re very sweet to want to help her; I think being patient and being there for her will speak volumes right now.

  2. Lauren Torggler permalink
    May 1, 2013 5:38 am

    Mimosa definitely is a little closer to me than my husband. Don’t get me wrong, she loves my husband, but she’s a mommys girl. I do spend more time with her and give her more attention overall (playing, talking, feeding, litter etc.) but even before that she was glued to me. My husband actually picked her up from the shelter. We weren’t living together at the time due to his job, so I didnt get to see Mimosa until a week after he officially adopted her (even though I helped pick her out at the shelter a week before). Regardless, she took to me instantly…almost the second I walked in the door she was glued to my side and lap, which I found surprising. Even my husband was shocked, and probably a little jealous! She has been that way ever since. I find as a whole she prefers women. I actually did research on it a while back when I noticed it. I’m not sure if its the pitch of our voice or the fact that were not as tall and ominous as men, but she definitely gravitates to women first.

    • May 1, 2013 5:55 am

      That’s really interesting! I feel like Ellie is the same way with me. I think you’re right – perhaps we do (unintentionally?) interact with them more often, plus I think your point that our voices and height may also play a role. Ellie’s definitely intimidated when we have some of our taller guy friends over, whereas CG thinks it’s great!

    • Lauren Torggler permalink
      May 1, 2013 6:49 am

      Yea, I think height and voice can play a role, depending on the cat. The taller/larger a person is the more skittish Mimosa is at first. It also doesn’t help that when she looks up, she falls over, which is probably why she doesn’t like super tall people. She looooves when people sit on the floor with her – less intimidating and she doesn’t have to look up. She also doesn’t like loud noises. My dad is really tall and has a tendency to stomp. I had read about the pitch thing a while back, so I started telling my dad to sit on the floor and talk in a higher voice when he talked to her and sure enough, she started to warm up to him more!

  3. Roz permalink
    May 1, 2013 3:48 pm

    Funnily enough it’s the other way around in our household. Both of our girls (one CH, the other not) are Daddy’s girls and always have been. Neither of them are lap cats, but if they choose to seek out a bit of attention or company, he is their first choice! Stitch, CH, will sleep on his work clothes if they are left on the floor, so I wonder if it’s something to do with scent?

    • May 1, 2013 4:04 pm

      How interesting! I figured there’d be at least one person who’d prove this wrong 🙂 I like your scent hypothesis. How long have you had Stitch?

    • Roz permalink
      May 1, 2013 4:12 pm

      That would be us, proving the theory wrong! We have had Stitch for nearly six years. She came to us via the SPCA where I was volunteering at the time, and she was around 6 months old then. The scent thing could maybe be related to perfume / deodorant / body lotion smells that are too strong for the cats sensitive noses, perhaps they prefer au naturel?

    • May 1, 2013 4:14 pm

      Perhaps! They do have an acute sense of smell. We should have a cat smell test 🙂

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