Cats love their owners just as much as dogs do - study

There is a common misconception that while dogs are a man's best friend, cats are like a distant relative - the one who shows up to family gatherings for food, and then leaves. 

However, a study published in the Current Biology journal on Monday has found cats to be just as loving as their canine counterparts.

US researchers have discovered that domestic cats, much like dogs and babies, form emotional bonds with their human caregivers. The majority of felines demonstrated a 'secure bond' and clear interest in their owners. 

Only the minority of cats analysed were found to uphold their reputation as cold and aloof.

"Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans," said Kristyn Vitale, according to Science Daily. "The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment."

Researchers performed a 'secure base test' with the cats to analyse their attachment behaviours. The test is broken down into three phases.

Child and her kitten.
Child and her kitten. Photo credit: Getty

Firstly, the cat spends two minutes in a new room with their owner. The cat then spends two minutes alone in the room, before spending a further two minutes reunited with their human.

When reunited with their owner after the two-minute absence, cats with a 'secure attachment' typically showed less signs of stress. They visibly demonstrated an interest in their owner while exploring the new environment.

Cats with an 'insecure attachment' continued to show indicators of stress while avoiding their owner or "ambivalently" clinging to them.

Baby and cat.
Baby and cat. Photo credit: File

Both kittens and adult cats were studied by the researchers and behavioural experts. Roughly 65 percent of the cats and kittens were found to be "securely bonded" to their owners.

The cats were subsequently enrolled in a six-week socialisation training course to see if 'attachment' can be taught. However, the majority - whether secure or insecure - did not change their behaviour.