Now all of this is due to the study done by Professor Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, along with Alice Potter – who studied as a postgraduate at Lincoln. As a cat lover, I do not agree that cats are any less affectionate than dogs, though they do show it differently and as such i am weighing in on this (heated) debate.
“The Strange situationis a procedure devised by Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s to observe attachment relationships between a caregiver and child. It applies to children between the age of 18 months and 9 years old. Broadly speaking, the attachment styles were (1) secure, (2) insecure (ambivalent and avoidance). Later Mary Main and her husband Erik Hesse introduce the 3rd category, Disorganized.”
This procedure has a very specific set of requirements, to produce results that are consistent and accurate. The key one that I will be addressing is development.This is important because of the developmental level of children for the test to have any meaning. Understanding neurobiology and child brain development is important. The limbic system (emotional centre) of the brain begins to develop at approximately 12 months and continues until the child is 4 years old. If you try this experiment with a child who is 3 years old the results would be different to that of a 13 year old who is trying to be independent from family and further along in their emotional development, or a 25 year old who has become accustomed to separating from their primary carer.
Prof. Mills and Alice Potter explain the experiment in the following way: “The procedure involves placing a subject in an unfamiliar room together with its carer and a stranger. Followed by a series of episodes of separation from, and reunions with, their carer and the stranger. The outcome they are looking for is a differentiation between the carer and the stranger in the support they provide to the subject in this challenging environment. This can be used to imply the type of attachment that exists between the subject and care.”
Ainsworth’s Strange Situation has been replicated countless times since it was originally tested providing a lot of information about child development and carer attachment. However, applying this experiment to an animal is a very different matter. Differences such as age, mental development, time, and communication are all completely different between animals and their owners as compared to a parent and child. Mills and Potter do recognise the need for further tests with alternative methodologies “to characterise the normal psychological features of the cat-owner bond.”
Here is my list of the top 3 problems with this experiment
1. Age of the cats vs. age of the child.
The 20 cats used in the experiment were between the age of 1-9. A cat is considered an adult at 1 year of age, this means that from a developmental standpoint I would say they were mature. Mature means more independent, by this stage they would have become quite accustomed to humans leaving, and returning. If this experiment was done with teenagers or adults who had become used to separating from their care givers we might not see the same attached responses that we see in a child.
I found it interesting that Mills and Potter state “Kittens are reported to have a sensitive phase of socialisation towards humans between their second and seventh week of life. During this time exposure to humans, amount of handling, number of handlers…have all been found to influence sociality towards humans”. Perhaps this time period in a kitten’s life would be closer to the reactions of a human child
2. Previous experience of separation
Children have previous experiences of separation, however, when this happens it is always with an explanation and a ‘goodbye’ ritual whether with the babysitter or at the school gates the parent and child will share a hug or a kiss and say goodbye. This situation deliberately removes this to cause anxiety. With animals, a ‘goodbye’ ritual may not exist or may not be understood to be a goodbye ritual by the cat. After all, they are already used to their owner coming, and going, at random times with no communication or explanation as to why. As such, it isn’t a ‘strange situation’ for the cat and doesn’t replicate the state of anxiety that the child would be experiencing.
3. Development and independence
A child aged 18 months – 9 years old is aware that it relies solely on the primary care giver for its basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. To be left by that care giver with no explanation creates a panic and anxiety about survival. A cat is an independent creature who can provide for itself so does not, initially, feel panic at the separation as a child might. This is particularly demonstrated because 19 of the cats had regular access to the outside, this makes them quite independent, open for adventure and exploring. Dealing with the outside situation without having support and needing comfort with them all the time.
At the end of the day, I think about it in the following way:
I love my wife very much but I don’t need my wife around all the time, I like having her around, and miss her when she is not. I feel more relaxed having someone I like around, the comfort of companionship when she is, but I am also able to be on my own. Given the choice I choose being around my wife or my friends, but I also don’t need them. Wait new headlines “Humans don’t care about humans because they don’t NEED them”, oh that’s already a thing….damn! Just because they don’t panic doesn’t mean they don’t love having us around!
Observing my own two cats, I KNOW they like having me around, they show me this each and every day by coming up to me when I wake up to say good morning and get a pat. Randomly, hopping on my lap or sitting on the top of my desk chair to just be near me. Meowing to talk to me. When I leave on holidays their behavior changes towards me, it takes time for them to forgive me and return to their routine. For me it shows cats relate to humans different and choose to love and be around us rather than needing to be.
Leave me a comment to share how you know your cat loves you.
It’s hump day! The SoPurrfect way to get us over the hump is Top 10 Cutest Kittens on Youtube!
Cats are fun and cute, but not as cute as kittens! There is something special about seeing tiny animals play and experience the new world around them. Watching them growing into adults, their cute little character traits developing. It’s what makes each and every one of them unique and special to us.
If you liked this video, check out some of our other fun and favourites! They will make your heart melt and your stomach sore from laughter.
Animal welfare is a cause that is really close to my heart and it’s hard to find an organisation better than the RSPCA.
The RSPCA is an independent, non-government community-based charity providing animal care and protection services and each year they team with people and businesses around the country to raise money and help over 100,000 animals of all kinds. They speak for those in our lives that don’t have the voices to speak for themselves.
Welcome to one of the best days (weeks) of the year! RSPCA cupcake day. Who doesn’t love cupcakes? These days there are cupcakes for ever single person out there (sugar free, gluten free, lactose free) and the money raised from these cupcakes goes to supporting as many different animals; and now, indulging in this lovely sweet treat you are supporting such a wonderful cause. The RSPCA are especially close to my heart as Shadow and Frosty (my two cats) were adopted from their Sydney rescue centre.
This year I got to spend the day at Sydney Hot Spot Twine & Twig Cafe who put on a extra special day in support of the RSPCAcupcakeday. Twine & Twig is a peacefully trendy cafe in the heart of Wentworth Point. It is just a stroll away from the beautiful parks and waterside that this quietly up and coming suburb has to offer. There is nothing better than a peaceful bicycle ride through the parks to build up an appetite for Twine & Twig modern breakfast menu. This year, the masterful chef at Twine & Twigs baked up some truly amazing cupcakes, my favorite was the maltesers chocolate cupcake. While chocolate cupcakes are not my usual favorite but this one has now put chocolate cupcakes to the top of the list.
With money still rolling in the RSPCA has raised over $900,000! Even though the RSPCAcupcakeday is over for another year, it’s not too late to still donate – just click this link to donate today and keep supporting the great work of the RSPCA
Let me know what you did for RSPCA Cupcake day below.
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