by Pat Keenor
A BRITISH university made a study and declared "cats don't need their owners". This, in turn, spawned a raft of headlines in the media of the "cats don't care about you" variety.
Don't care about us? What madness is this!
It's true, of course, that cats are more independent than dogs and might take a little while to warm to you before they feel safe enough to give of their love and affection. But this is just like the difference between introverted and extroverted people. Some are slow-burners who get used to you slowly and then start to open up, while other people are immediately open and friendly with whomever they meet.
I know my cat loves me, for these reasons (I'm sure you have plenty more):
1. She head-butts me for strokes. True, usually when I'm fast asleep in bed so I wake suddenly with my heart thumping - but affection is affection.
2. She licks me - with a tongue that feels like sandpaper, removing the top layer of skin. But who needs to exfoliate in the shower when you have a cat?
3. She curls up on my lap and purrs loud enough to wake the dead.
4. She follows me around the house to see what I'm up to. I sometimes feel like I'm a celebrity with a stalker but she's just interested in what I'm doing. I hope.
5. She sits on my chest and stares into my eyes. It can feel a bit like a sinister staring competition with dire consequences for the one who blinks first. But I am reliably informed that cats only look directly at someone they trust.
6. She does that long, slow blink which in cat world is a kiss. I'm glad she's not a kisser in the human sense. That tuna breath could be a step too far.
7. She talks to me. She miaows. I answer. She miaows back. We talk about everything from world politics to the price of fish.
8. She scratches at closed windows and doors to be with me.... usually at 4am.
|How dare you shut me out. Let me in. AT ONCE!|
10. She not only needs me, she kneads me. Which is a sign of affection. Isn't it? Please tell me it is...
- The University of Lincoln Animal Behaviour Clinic based its conclusion on something called The Strange Situation Test. This was formulated in the 1970s as a test to see how attached children were to their caregivers. Basically, they put a cat in an unfamiliar room with its owner and found it didn't look for reassurance from the "care-giver". They also showed that cats do not suffer from separation anxiety if the owner goes away.
Cats are not pack animals so they have to be independent. They do not see you as the leader of their pack but as someone they want to live with.
Alice Potter, cat behaviour and well-being expert at animal welfare organisation the RSPCA, said the study could help owners meet the needs of their pets.
"It suggests that if a cat is scared or has been involved in an incident it's not going to want a cuddle, it's going to want to go and hide, so owners need to provide a place for that to happen," she said,
"Likewise an owner shoudn't worry if their cat doesn't want to be comforted. It's just doing what comes naturally."