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Article

My Cat and Me—A Study of Cat Owner Perceptions of Their Bond and Relationship

Animal Behaviour, Cognition and Welfare Group, School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincolnshire LN6 7TS, UK
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Academic Editors: Chiara Mariti and Jonathan Bowen
Animals 2021, 11(6), 1601; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061601
Received: 4 May 2021 / Revised: 23 May 2021 / Accepted: 26 May 2021 / Published: 29 May 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cat Behaviour, Physiology and Welfare)
Despite the cat’s popularity as a companion animal, little is known about its bond and relationship with owners. The aim of this study was to identify and characterize the different types of relationship that cats might establish with their owners, using human attachment and social support theories as a framework for the underpinning bond. A questionnaire was developed to gather information regarding different emotional elements that could underpin the relationship; the cat’s potential perception of the owner as a secure base; the owner’s level of engagement with the cat, their sensitivity to the cat’s needs and the consistency of their interactions with the cat. Five distinct forms of cat–owner relationship were identified. These seemed to constitute what we describe as an: “open relationship”, “remote association”, “casual relationship”, “co-dependence” and “friendship”. The extent to which these relationships involved a bond towards the owner as a source of social support or secure attachment varied. Accordingly, we conclude that the cat–owner bond should not be profiled simply or solely in terms of attachment in its classic psychological sense.
Cats form close emotional relationships with humans, yet little is known about this. This study characterized different types of relationship that cats might establish with their owners. Data were analyzed from 3994 responses to a questionnaire developed using expressions of social support and attachment in relation to everyday cat–owner interactions. Principal component analysis reduced the items to four factors: the “owner’s emotional investment in the cat”, “cat’s acceptance of others”, “cat’s need for owner proximity” and “cat’s aloofness”. Cluster identified three groups of owners with two of these each sub-divided into two. The “open relationship bond” was characterized by a lightly emotionally invested owner and an avoidant cat. The “remote association” and “casual relationship” were characterized by an emotionally remote owner but differed in the cat’s acceptance of others. The “co-dependent” and “friendship” relationship were characterized by an emotionally invested owner but differed in the cat’s acceptance of others and need to maintain owner proximity. In conclusion, as with any complex social relationship, the type of cat–owner bond that develops is the product of the dynamic that exists between both the individuals involved, along with certain personality features, of which, the wider sociability of the cat and owner expectations may be particularly important. View Full-Text
Keywords: affectional bond; attachment; cat; human–animal interaction; owner; relationship; social support; temperament affectional bond; attachment; cat; human–animal interaction; owner; relationship; social support; temperament
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MDPI and ACS Style

Ines, M.; Ricci-Bonot, C.; Mills, D.S. My Cat and Me—A Study of Cat Owner Perceptions of Their Bond and Relationship. Animals 2021, 11, 1601. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061601

AMA Style

Ines M, Ricci-Bonot C, Mills DS. My Cat and Me—A Study of Cat Owner Perceptions of Their Bond and Relationship. Animals. 2021; 11(6):1601. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061601

Chicago/Turabian Style

Ines, Mauro, Claire Ricci-Bonot, and Daniel S. Mills 2021. "My Cat and Me—A Study of Cat Owner Perceptions of Their Bond and Relationship" Animals 11, no. 6: 1601. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061601

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