Are cats naturally wired to be aloof? That's been the conventional wisdom, the assumption for generations...that dogs live and breathe 24 hours a day, seven days a week to worship their masters and slobber affection all over them, while largely uninterested cats sit back and observe with an always-wary eye, wondering when the mostly-hairless upright being is going to feed them next or maybe scratch their back.
The internet has done little to dispel this long-held notion. In fact, it's probably buoyed the belief that dogs offer universal love and adoration, while cats want to be affectionate and get a nice pet courtesy of their human only on their schedule and terms. Just Google anything having to do with "cute pet videos" and see how many dog videos come up compared to those showcasing felines being all warm and fuzzy.
Looking to find out if cats attach emotionally to their human owners on any level, or if they ever seek out their human owners in order to feel safe and secure, researchers last week announced their findings of a study that any cat owner would intriguing.
At the heart of the study, cats and their owners were placed in a room entirely unfamiliar to the four-legged creature. After a bit, the owners exited, leaving the cats alone in a space strange and foreign to them. Researchers observing the felines in most instances saw them acting uncertain, wary, off-kilter and generally uneasy. Maybe even a bit frightened. They were alone and on their own in uncomfortable territory and obviously didn’t know how long they’d be forced to endure their current predicament. When their owners re-entered the room after a while, in the vast majority of instances, their cats were very happen to see them, and they showed it.
I’ve been a cat owner and, thus, a “cat person” my whole life. While I claim to be almost on the “whisperer” level when it comes to relating to just about any animal – What can I say? Animals dig me. It’s not like a switch I can just turn off. – I relate to cats and, more importantly when it comes to the endless debate over what cats are truly all about, I think they relate to me.
Of course they’re hungry. They always want more to eat. And, yes, if you were covered in fur, wouldn’t you want someone to dig their fingernails into it as much as possible?
But on a larger scope, our cats typically want to be around us, in the same room with us. Rarely do they go off on their own for some solitary cat time.
When one of us walks in the door after work, they are there to greet us, meowing and rubbing up against our legs. Yes, absolutely, they try their best to lead us to the room in the basement where their food dishes are in need of reinforcements, but if we sit on a step on the way down, they’ll stop in their tracks for a good scratching session. In that moment, food takes a back seat to affection. That certainly doesn’t fit the textbook definition of aloof.
If we’re in the living room, they’re in the living room. If we’re preparing supper in the kitchen, they’re in the kitchen. If we’re in the dining room, they’re close by.
And yet, there’s the stereotype cats can’t seem to live down, the canine comparison they can’t escape. When friends, family or other visitors see how needy and clingy our cats so often are, it doesn’t take long for someone to point out that they seem more like dogs than cats.
Maybe they are. And that’s entirely OK. Great, even. I love dogs, too, after all. But if I can share a house with an animal that’s as affectionate and even devoted as your typical dog, but the animal uses a litter box and doesn’t need to be let outside to do his “business,” doesn’t bark and doesn’t chew through the walls, that’s enough to make me purr. (The creepy column ending meter is deep into the red.)