Why is it that cats always get such a bad reputation as pets, huh? Why do so many people think of them as loners or anti-social animals that are mean and aggressive with little to no desire for human interaction? Personally, I think it’s because many people don’t take the time to understand cats in the same way they do dogs. Why? Because cats have proven to be far more difficult to understand than their canine counterparts, and I believe that increased level of difficulty can turn people off to cats as a whole.
The Spectrum of Feline Attachment Styles
In reality, cats are actually very diverse in their behaviors and personalities, just like humans, canines, and many other living beings. Among other things, their behaviors and personalities have an affect on the ways in which they bond or interact with humans. Scientists and researchers have identified five different attachment or interaction styles between cats and humans (“Inside Your Cat’s Mind: What They Really Think”), proving once and for all that not all cats fall into the anti-social sourpuss stereotype, so it’s time to kick that bad rep to the curb!
Cats' Different Attachment Styles
Before diving into each of the different attachment styles, I think it’s important to make note that these relationships are generally used to describe the bond between a cat and its human owner. However, I don’t think it’s too giant a leap to suggest that whatever attachment style is fostered between an owner and their cat can have the ability to influence the type of interactions that same cat will have with other human beings as well. Of course, each cat and situation are different, so this is not to say that a cat will always treat a stranger the same way they treat their owner, but if you know and understand the attachment style in place between a cat and its owner, you may be able to better understand why that cat interacts with you in the way it does.
The first attachment style noted between cats and humans is called an “Open Relationship.” In this style of relationship, there is a relatively low level of emotional investment on the human owner’s behalf, and the cat itself tends to prefer its independence over an abundance of quality time with its owner. It is in this category that we find cats that are more aloof, as the tend to prefer spending much of their time outdoors as opposed to in the home with their person/people.
The second style of attachment between cats and humans is called a “Remote Association.” This style of relationship is characterized by an owner that has nearly no emotional investment in their cat. This relationship tends to foster a type of cat that is completely fine with total independence. In fact, they may prefer it. They often have high energy levels, which makes them great “working” cats, like those you see catching mice on farms or in breweries. These cats can find happiness and fulfillment even when out of touch with humans. You might argue that the cats that interact in the Open Relationship or Remote Association styles are the ones that tend to give their species a bad rep. But it’s not the cat’s fault! It’s simply personal preference.
The third attachment style is called a “Casual Relationship.” This style of relationship very laissez faire. The owner has little emotional investment in their cat, and vice versa. It’s just casual! Though cats in this category tend to enjoy the presence of people and being social, they aren’t emotionally connected to any one person. Cats that prefer this interaction style tend to live in busy households where they have the choice to come and go as they please. In fact, they may even leave their house and go visit the humans next door!
The fourth attachment style between cats and humans is labeled as “Co-Dependent.” This relationship is characterized by a human owner that is highly emotionally invested in their cat, and a cat that is equally as invested in their owner. Though they are social and snuggly with their favorite person, these cats may be wary of interacting with other humans – mostly because co-dependent cats are almost strictly indoor cats that don’t typically get to meet many other animals or humans. That said, it’s not that co-dependent cats don’t like humans, it’s just that they only feel safe around certain humans.
The final attachment style is called a “Friendship,” and this relationship between cat and owner is just as it sounds: both the owner and cat share a mutual affection for one another, but both are also totally open to building other relationships as well. In other words, the cats that fall into this attachment style are typically very social and outgoing. They love companionship with their owner, the neighbor kid next door AND the grouchy old man across the street, but they also don’t mind just hanging out on their own here and there.
Not All Cats are Jerks!
And there you have the spectrum of feline attachment styles as described by the professionals at “Inside Your Cat’s Mind: What They Really Think,” by Centennial Animals. Proof, more or less, that not all cats are jerks, just some of them!