Are cats more independent than dogs? We recently asked Dr Maria Grazia Calore to deepen our knowledge of the alleged opportunism of the domestic feline. Rather than opportunism, we found that a cat shows independence in its choice of environments and human friends with whom it establishes a relational bond. Further confirming this independent streak is a new study that will get cat lovers talking; the study claims to add more weight to the idea that felines do not need us to feel safe, and they suffer much less than dogs in our absence.
The study about the attachment of felines to their owners
A team from the University of Lincoln led by Professor Daniel Mills, submitted 20 pairs of cat and their owners to the Ainsworth Strange Situation Test (SST), used to determine the attachment of dogs or children to the individuals that first take care of them. For dogs, influenced by their social nature, these individuals represent a reference point but the same thing would not be true for the more independent cats. The cats were taken to unfamiliar environments in the company of their owners and also on their own from time to time to study their reactions and to discover any signs of stress: “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.” According the group of scholars, the vocalisations the cats made when they were left alone might simply be a sign of frustration or learned response, since no other signs of attachment were reliably seen; this reaction is far removed from the separation anxiety that afflicts many dogs.
Cats away from their owners: their point of view
The research sample – 20 cats – seems too small to rule out separation anxiety or suffering at the time of separation. Many cat owners tell us their cats not only display signs of discomfort linked to separation but also joy at being reunited. But what exactly do more independent cats do when we are out and, above all, how do they react to being left in solitude in the apartment or garden? The web offers us a lot of materials that show the behaviour of cats left home alone. For example, the authors of the movie below have strapped a GoPro camera to each of their cats to monitor their activities when left home alone for an hour.
The video shows several behaviours, including a strong passion for games and their wild nature – but establishing a single, universal reaction to separation from the owner still seems difficult. And you, who have chosen this feline as your companion, what do you think?