Have you ever wondered what your relationship with your feline is really like? A scientific cat quiz is here to give you the answer once and for all.
Cats are inscrutable creatures at the best of times, and despite over 80 million cats being owned as pets in the US alone, little is known about their bond and relationship with their owners.
To try to remedy this, a group of researchers at the University in Lincoln in the UK have developed a cat quiz to see how feline owners perceive their emotional connection with their furry friends.
Professor Daniel Mills, animal behavioural specialist at the University of Lincoln, explains: "Cats form close emotional relationships with humans, yet little is actually known about this. As with any complex social relationship, the type of cat-owner bond is a product of the dynamic between both individuals involved, along with their certain personality features."
"While many cats may be aloof, it seems that this is not as common as might be portrayed. The wider sociability of the cat and owner expectations may be significant, and the owner's level of emotional investment in the cat and the cat's sociability appear to be particularly important in discriminating what type of relationship they have together."
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The cat quiz the researchers developed, which is online for anyone to try, came in the form of statements like 'I don’t know what I would do without my cat' and 'My cat visits the neighbors (even if I am at home)'. They then asked nearly 4,000 cat owners to say how much the agreed or disagreed with each statement to help provide insight into how they and their furbabies interact with each other.
The research helped them identify five types of relationships associated with cat ownership: 'Open relationship', 'Remote association', 'Casual relationship,' Co-dependence'; and 'Friendship'.
The paper, My Cat and Me – a Study of Cat Owner Perceptions of Their Bond and Relationship, describes these five types as below:
The Co-dependent relationship
This cat has often come to depend on a very emotionally invested owner. The owner typically plays regularly with the cat, and is seen as a part of the same social group and as a secure base. The cat doesn’t relate well with others (is even likely to hide when, for example, someone comes to the house). This relationship is common among cats living in a one-person household with no access outdoors.
The owner is emotionally invested in the cat and will often find time to play with the cat; the cat is very warm and friendly towards the owner, who is seen not only as part of the same social group but also as someone to seek out for comfort when the cat is worried.
The cats in this type of bond reflect a prototypical view of the cat as a solitary, independent animal, who should have access to the outside. The cats relate well to other people (they are likely to greet visitors or visit neighbors) and have some affiliation with the owner, but have little need for owner proximity and may be seen as aloof.
Cats in this type of relationship are cared for, but not typically considered to be a close friend or part of the family; they may not be very close emotionally, even though the cat’s behavior towards the owner may be quite friendly. These cats prefer to maintain distance from people, possibly because they lack confidence.
These cats have always preferred life outdoors to life in their busy households. They will often visit several homes in their territory (possibly having more than one home!) and might be gone for days at the time. Even though these cats behave in a friendly way towards the owner they will not try to stay close to their carer.
So which relationship do you have with your cat? You can find out using the online version of the cat quiz. But don't worry, whatever relationship you are given, it's likely they will still come running when you open a packet of cat treats!
Jamie Middleton is a freelance editor and writer - or at least he is when he is permitted to by his cat Pirate, who enjoys the warmth of laptops too much to allow being creative to get in the way.
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