I love my cat, but does she love me?
When I wanted to get a pet, many told me to get a dog (Canis familiaris). Get a poodle, people said. Or a maltese? How about a husky?
When I said I wanted a cat (Felis catus), friends were appalled. “Why?! You should get a dog!” one exclaimed. They added: “Dogs are much more loyal than cats! They will save your life when you are in danger. Cats will just walk away.”
These critics need to read about the cat who regularly visited his dead owner’s tomb or the lost cat who walked 200 miles to return to its home.
Too little research has been done on cats’ loyalty and attachment to owners compared to existing literature on dogs, so it’s unfair to conclude that cats are simply less loyal than dogs. Also, it is more difficult to conduct experiments on cats as they are generally more used to routines and would behave differently in lab settings.
But there have been some researchers who have tried.
In an experiment conducted by Edwards, Heiblum, Tejeda & Galindo (2007), cats behaved significantly differently when with their owners as opposed to in the company of strangers. In the company of their owners, cats showed play behaviour more often, which may be an indication that they trust the owner enough that they feel safe to explore or play.
The same cats also showed more inactivity, or “freezing”, when they were in the company of strangers. Freezing may indicate that they feel fear or anxiety.
So yes, I believe my cat loves me, just as much as I love her. And she doesn’t need to show it, because she can’t.
Edwards, C., Heiblum, M., Tejeda, A., & Galindo, F. (2007). Experimental evaluation of attachment behaviors in owned cats. Journal of Veterinary Behavior , 2, 119-125.
Love Meow LLC. (2013, January 6). Loyal Cat Brings Gifts and Visits to His Master’s Tomb . Retrieved April 6, 2013, from Love Meow: http://lovemeow.com/2013/01/loyal-cat-brings-gifts-to-his-masters-tomb/
Belluck, P. (2013, January 19). A Cat’s 200-Mile Trek Home Leaves Scientists Guessing . Retrieved April 6, 2013, from The New York Times: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/19/one-cats-incredible-journey/