Many think of dogs as loyal, love-filled companions, and cats as cute beasts that tolerate us - but we might have to rethink that a little. According to 2019 research, cats can get just as bonded to their human friends as dogs do.
This may not come as a huge surprise to those who live with cat companions, but it suggests two important things. Firstly, it looks like we've underestimated the depth of the bond cats can form with their people. Additionally, it shows that dogs don't have a monopoly on secure social bonding with Homo sapiens.
"Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans," said animal scientist Kristyn Vitale of Oregon State University in September 2019.
"The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment."
In their behavioural experiment, the research team observed how cats respond to their owners in a strange environment. Previous research on rhesus monkeys (the controversial wire mother experiments reported in 1958) and dogs (a much more ethically sound experiment reported last year) had shown that both species form secure and insecure attachments.
In a secure attachment, a dog in a strange environment will, upon being reunited with their humans, relax and continue to explore. An insecure attachment, on the other hand, will see the dog continue exhibiting stress behaviour, either clinging excessively to the human, or avoiding them as much as possible.
This new study suggests that cats have the ability and the necessary traits to form deep social bonds with humans. It's just that they may express themselves in their own special way.