It has some interesting implications for robotics, I think. When it comes to emotional bonds, at least, humans obviously don’t care about the deeper philosophical questions of the Turing Test at all. We’ll be totally happy to bond to entities rather or not they’re capable of bonding in return, as long as they provide superficial mimicry of the act.
I used to have cats and I like cats precisely because they obviously don´t give a shit. They were funny and cute and when they died I was not terribly sad because I wasn´t too emotionally invested in them either.
My one cat would have ripped that women with the toy to shreds. No joke. My other cat greets me at the door when I come home. Cats are very much individuals, but they aren’t as needy as either babies or dogs, so I don’t think this is the best way to illustrate whether they are bonded or attached. If I go away for a week, and someone else cares for them, they stop grooming themselves. They aren’t going to demonstrate the same signs as dogs or babies.
Agree. I have enough living things in my household that are totally dependent on me already.
Cats are loving, but definitely on their own terms. I’m cool with that, I don’t need dog-like utter devotion to every fiber of my being to feel good about myself.
(Not that dogs aren’t great pets in their own right, just… it’s a little much for my tastes. And for lazy people, cats are much better low-overhead pets.)
As a cat “owner” it was not a surprise to me that cats consider us providers of resources. As I type this, a tabby is trying to climb onto my shoulder and bury her face into my hair, so it’s not only about the food and litter box duties.
Short answer? No.
A few years back I was in the hospital for emergency surgery and had a prolonged stay. I left my cat with family. Even though they played with him and gave him his favorite food he literally pined away and died.
He was older, but had always been active, feisty, and in good health. He’d had a routine checkup just the month before.
So your cat may not love you, but mine loved me very much.
The title of this article is misleading. From the video, it should be “does your cat depend on you for safety?” The answer to that is NO. They think that they are ferocious predators. But that doesn’t say anything about whether a cat has a strong bond.
The real answer is that it depends heavily on the particular cat.
The two cats we have now are affectionate but not strongly bonded. We had a cat before them who was very strongly attached. When he got sick, my wife brought him home with a thick bandage around his middle and a feeding tube leading into his stomach. The moment she set him free, he ran up to my office room, jumped on my lap, and buried his head in my stomach. [Deity of your choice] knows whether that’s love, but I still haven’t quite gotten over it.
Any cat will love you for changing their litter box. Extra love for cooked shrimp or fish. Beef, pork, lamb bones they love too.
Note that the headline is wrong. The study found that cats do not “show attachment” in the sense of using the human as a physical-contact reassurance base in a novel situation. There’s no evidence that this particular behavior equates to love. In fact, what it seems to equate more directly to is pack-status approval need, which we know dogs have far more strongly than cats.
The answer to a headline with a question mark is not “no”, it’s “define your terms, because otherwise this is almost certainly not a yes/no question.”
Agreed. The headline talks of love. The research talks of attachment. But the results seem to be about dependency. Although they can relate to each other, I don’t believe that any of them equate to each other.
I’m sure that if the test were repeated on older human children, the results would be very different, even if the kids were attached to their parents.
Now for my personal story: When I was young, I had a cat that was very independent: always off adventuring throughout the nearby fields and whatnot. When I called her, she would come, even when 200-300 meters/yards away. But she would not come for anyone else. Ever. But like every cat I’ve ever met, she didn’t fret when she couldn’t find me. I’m sure that there was an attachment, but no real dependence.
This feels like an gross oversimplification on several levels. Cats have a wide range of personalities, and while their social bonds aren’t as strong or as structured as a human’s or dog’s, they are very definitely social animals, not the loners they’re portrayed as. Feral cats naturally cluster together. Think lions, not tigers.
I have one cat, Mattie, who acts much like the one in the video. She’s curious and affectionate with everybody pretty much equally. My other cat, Lulu, is frightened of everyone. If a stranger enters the house, he will vanish until they leave. Even with people he knows, any loud noise or sudden movement will spook him. He will sometimes come to cuddle with my roommates as long as they’re sitting down and not being scary, but most of all he is absolutely terrified of being held or restrained; he may happily let you pet him for several minutes, but the moment he imagines the petting hand is becoming a grip, he is instantly frantic.
Except with me. When I’m lying in bed, he will curl up against my chest and let me put both arms around him and squeeze, without reacting except to purr. It’s taken years of careful trust-building on my part to teach him that I will always let him go when he wants to. When I went on vacation for a week, he hid in my room the entire time, only emerging to eat and use the litterbox before dashing back. When I came back, he didn’t greet me at the door, but he returned immediately to his usual habits of skulking comfortably around unless spooked. You can debate whether that’s “love” as humans understand it, but the unique trust and emotional attachment is undeniable.
It may be the way the video was edited, but there’s an important difference between the dog and cat experiments. When the dog was reunited with its person, the stranger was ignoring it. When the cat’s person re-entered the room, the stranger was still actively playing with it. Small wonder then that the cat wasn’t jumping around like an
idiot dog/baby/baby dog.
Sorry about your cat and I hope you feel better.
I had a cat years ago who, when my husband had to be away for two weeks, spent the whole time digging up things that smelt like him (mostly unwashed socks) and bringing them to other members of the household. This was not behavior she demonstrated at any other time. To me she was clearly missing him (or at least his smell).
That said, I wouldn’t have expect that experiment to go any differently.
as a cat owner, i think the study is kind of flawed – i have had many experiences similar to the ones other people have mentioned that seem to me to display obvious signs of attachment, and (all right, i’ll say it) love. as for the video, the cat CLEARLY is aware when the owner tries to sneak out. cats are good at scoping the entire situation. dogs can get more easily distracted.
I have a rescue cat. He’s old, but very attached. My husband had a kidney stone, and was laying in the living room for days in agony. The cat brought my husband mouthfuls of kibble, and sat pressed against him until the situation passed. Also, in a very uncatlike fashion, if I show him the slightest interest, he’ll run to me from across the house. This could be that he was dumped in a parking lot at the ripe old age of 12(isn) and had nobody for over a year.
My previous cat? He was decidedly standoffish. Except once I had him at my folks for two weeks. When I came to get him, he ran to me, and wanted held. After ten minutes he was back to his old self and prowling off away from me, when for the entire two weeks of boarding he’d hidden behind a chair.
I don’t think you can argue apples to apples with human attachment to feline attachment.
In an effort to enjoy all of the benefits of cat ownership with none of the expense, I pasted a photograph of a cat’s face (easily procured from the internet) onto a brick. “Bricko the Cat” shows me the same indifference, lack of loyalty, and failure to bond as cats do, and so affordable!
Of course, when I use my special Salmon Mousse Cologne, cats suddenly love me. Go figure.
Yeah, I find the headline somewhat odd, given the tests done. It makes me wonder what humans mean when they say “love” anyway. It has never occurred to me to wonder whether my cat loves me since he’s a cat. I definitely would not expect him to show the kinds of attachment a human child would (and OMG I could not handle having a cat if he did). I love him, and I like that he seems to benefit from being the recipient of that. I also like that he is friendly with other people, as to me it is awkward and hard to deal with an animal that is not.
What do people wonder also? Do your plants love you? How about your pet iguana? I’m kind of relieved that I can have a friend watch over my cat when I have to go out without it doing some kind of deep psychological damage to him. Does that make me stupid for loving him? I think not, because it benefits me, I get something out of the interaction and I get something out of feeling the bond on my end. I get comfort out of petting him and playing with him, and being able to be close to him. If I don’t have to make him “love” me in order to get that kind of affection, then actually that’s all the better for me as love is a LOT of work.
Love with people, after all, is not a two way street either. Hell, isn’t that what “unconditional” means anyway?
I will also add that when I was a kid we had three cats. Eventually the oldest one died after a long life and the second, younger, one fell into decline shortly after. She would wonder around crying. She would stop eating for periods of time. We took her to the vet but she wasn’t really sick, it seemed, just could not adjust well to the absence of the first cat. Within a short time though, she did get a bronchial infection which killed her (and broke my mother’s heart completely, since now she had lost two pets). So I would say it seemed that cats can love each other in some way, or have attachments that cause them distress when they are unexpectedly broken at least (probably a better way to say what I mean). So if my cat doesn’t love me so much that he will literally spiral downward and die without me, I’m actually pretty happy about that.
File under: why I will never own a parrot.