Cat-Owner Attachment Behavior in Experimental Situation
World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2005
Claudia Edwards

Attachment, normal behavior among social animals, is quite significant since owners worry about their pets and take care of them because of this affective connection. Therefore, there are some doubts about if cats are indeed attached to their owners. The general objective of this work was identifying attachment behaviors in cats of different groups, ages and gender towards their owners in an experimental situation.

28 dyads were used (owner-cat) with cats of different racial types, from 1 to 7 years old, without taking into account gender or reproductive status. These dyads underwent the Ainsworth's Adapted Strange Situation Test. Event frequencies and state durations in individual type behaviors such as exploration-locomotion, alert and inactivity were registered by means of a direct continuous registration. For data analysis, cats were divided by racial type; 57.14% of muscular type represented by the races: Domestic European and Main Coon, 37.5% female and the rest male; for the chubby type (21.43%), all were from the Persian race. 83.3% male and the rest female. Finally, 21.43% belonged to the oriental type, Siamese cats, from which 66.6% were female and the rest male. In terms of the reproductive status, 78.57% of cats were castrated and 21.43% were not.

About the locomotion/exploration state, a highly significant ANOVA difference was found (N=28, F = 13.55 p < 0.001) between the episodes with the owner, alone and with a stranger, where cats spent more time in this state while being with their owner. About the alert behavior event frequency, an ANOVA difference (F = 7.44 p < 0.05) was found where the frequency was higher while being with the stranger. Finally, in the inactivity time ratio, a highly significant ANOVA difference was found (F = 18.55 p < 0.001), where the time in this behavior was more when the animal was alone.

Data shows that during the time when the owner was present, there were more exploration behaviors and less alert and inactivity states. More freezing behaviors and hyper-vigilance states were detected when the cat was alone or with a stranger; signs that can be related to fear states produced by the absence of the affection figure. Such results are consistent with the ones found by Ainsworth (1) in children attached to their mothers; therefore, we can say that cats can manifest attachment behaviors towards their owners and when these are absent, these animals can show signs related to separation anxiety, like some ones describes for Schwartz (2).


1.  Ainsworth M.D., Blehar M.C., Waters E. and Wall S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

2.  Schwartz S. (2002) Separation anxiety syndrome in cats: 136 cases (1991-2000). JAVMA, 220, 7, 1028-1033.

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Claudia Edwards

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