Attachment bonds between domestic cats and humans

Curr Biol. 2019 Sep 23;29(18):R864-R865. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.036.


Worldwide, domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) outnumber domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Despite cats' success in human environments, dog social cognition has received considerably more scientific attention over the last several decades [1-3]. A key aspect of what has been said to make dogs unique is their proclivity for forming attachment bonds, including secure attachments to humans [1,3], which could provide scaffolding for the development of human-like socio-cognitive abilities and contribute to success in human environments [3]. Cats, like dogs, can be found living in social groups or solitarily, depending on early developmental factors, resource distribution, and lifetime experiences such as human interaction [1,2,4]. Despite fewer studies, research suggests we may be underestimating cats' socio-cognitive abilities [2]. Here we report evidence, using behavioral criteria established in the human infant literature [5,6], that cats display distinct attachment styles toward human caregivers. Evidence that cats share social traits once attributed to dogs and humans alone would suggest that broader non-canine-specific mechanisms may be needed to explain cross-species attachment and socio-cognitive abilities.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cats / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Object Attachment*
  • Social Behavior