Cats purr-fectly happy when separated from their owners
Rudyard Kipling was right. Cats really do walk by themselves and do not need their owners to feel secure and safe, a study has shown.
Although owners might worry that their pet is nervously pining for their return when they leave the house, in fact, cats show no sign of separation anxiety.
Researchers at the University of Lincoln have concluded that cats, unlike dogs, do not need humans to feel protected, preferring to look after themselves.
But before cat lovers start despairing about their aloof house guests, animal behaviourists say they should actually take the finding as a compliment. If cats stick around, it means they really want to be there.
"The cat has recently passed the dog as the most popular companion animal in Europe, with many seeing a cat as an ideal pet for owners who work long hours," said Daniel Mills, professor of veterinary behavioural medicine at the University of Lincoln's School of Life Sciences.
"Previous research has suggested some cats show signs of separation anxiety when left alone by their owners, in the same way that dogs do, but the results of our study show that they are in fact much more independent than canine companions."
To find out if cats needed their owner to feel secure, the researchers observed how 20 cats reacted when they were placed in an unfamiliar environment together with their owner, with a stranger or on their own. The study monitored the amount of contact sought by the cat, the level of passive behaviour, and signs of distress caused by the absence of the owner.
"Although our cats were more vocal when the owner rather than the stranger left them with the other individual, we didn't see any additional evidence to suggest that the bond between a cat and its owner is one of secure attachment," said Professor Mills.
"This vocalisation might simply be a sign of frustration or a learned response." (© Daily Telegraph, London)