Investigating the relationship between cats and owners

Last changed: 25 February 2019

The aim of the project is to develop reliable methods to study and assess the cat-owner relationship as an attempt to identify different relationship styles, based on attachment theory. Generally, an attached individual (in this case the cat) seeks comfort from the attachment figure (the owner), use the attachment figure as a secure base to explore the environment and resists involuntary separation from the attachment figure. Upon activation of the attachment system (when exposed to e.g. a stressor), the first strategy of the attached individual should be to seek protection and comfort from the attachment figure. When comfort is gained, the attached individual should be able to move away from the attachment figure to explore the environment, i.e. using the attachment figure as a secure base. It is the balance between these two motivational systems, protection from threat and the urge to explore the surroundings, which is used for the evaluation of different attachment styles. In this study, cats will be observed during mildly challenging situations (e.g. being left alone in a novel environment or being exposed to a sudden noise/visual surprise), either in the presence of or in the absence of, their owner. We will focus on how the cat uses their owner during such challenges – does it seek support from the owner or is the reaction similar regardless of whether the owner is present or not?

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