Do Cats Miss Their Owners

icon May 22, 2024

The question of whether cats miss their owners delves into the broader understanding of feline behavior, emotions, and their complex relationships with humans. To address this, we need to explore not only if cats miss their owners but also what they think of humans and whether they are capable of love.

Do Cats Miss Their Owners?

To understand if cats miss their owners, it’s essential to consider the concept of attachment. Attachment in animals, particularly in pets, has been studied extensively, with much focus on dogs. However, research on feline attachment is also revealing. A study published in the journal "Current Biology" in 2019 conducted by Dr. Kristyn Vitale and her team at Oregon State University, found that cats display attachment behaviors toward their owners similar to those seen in dogs and human infants. This research indicates that cats do form strong bonds with their owners, debunking the myth of their inherent aloofness.

Also Read: How To Get A Cat Like You

Behavioral Indicators of Missing Owners

When a cat misses its owner, the signs may not be as overt as a dog's. However, attentive owners can observe various subtle behaviors:

1. Changes in Vocalization:
Cats have a wide range of vocalizations, and changes in their usual sounds can indicate distress. An increase in meowing or more frequent calling out can be a sign that a cat is looking for its owner.

2. Altered Eating Habits:
Some cats may eat less or more when their routine is disrupted by the absence of their owner. A sudden disinterest in food or overeating can be a sign of stress.

3. Searching Behavior:
Cats might search the house for their owner, checking places where they commonly spend time together. This behavior can include sniffing around their owner's belongings or waiting by the door.

4. Changes in Grooming:
Excessive grooming or, conversely, a lack of grooming can indicate anxiety in cats. This is often a response to the stress of their owner being absent.

5. Destructive Behavior:
Some cats may engage in destructive behavior, such as scratching furniture or knocking over items, as a way of coping with their owner’s absence.

What Do Cats Think of Humans?

To further understand if cats miss their owners, we must consider what cats think of humans. This insight provides context to their emotional responses and attachment.

a. Cats See Humans as Large, Non-Threatening Cats

Dr. John Bradshaw, an expert in anthrozoology, suggests in his book "Cat Sense" that cats view humans as larger versions of themselves. Unlike dogs, who have been bred for specific tasks and display distinct pack behaviors, cats maintain much of their wild ancestors' independent traits. When a cat kneads your lap or nuzzles your face, it is treating you much like it would treat another cat. This behavior suggests a form of social bonding, indicating that cats do form meaningful connections with their human companions.

b. Humans as a Source of Security

Studies, such as those conducted by Dr. Vitale, show that cats look to their owners as a source of comfort and security. This is particularly evident in new or stressful situations where cats tend to seek proximity to their owners, similar to how children seek reassurance from their parents.

Can Cats Love Their Owners?

The concept of love in animals is complex and often anthropomorphized. However, cats do display behaviors that can be interpreted as affection and attachment.

♣  Affectionate Behaviors

1. Purring: While purring can also indicate pain or distress, a content cat often purrs when in the company of its owner, especially when being petted or cuddled.

2. Head-Butting and Cheek Rubbing: Cats have scent glands on their heads, and when they head-butt or rub their cheeks against you, they are marking you with their scent. This is a sign of affection and indicates that they feel comfortable and secure.

3. Following You Around: Cats often follow their owners around the house. This behavior is a sign of curiosity and attachment, showing that they enjoy your company.

4. Bringing "Gifts": While receiving a dead mouse may not feel like a gift, for a cat, this is a high compliment. They are sharing their prized catch with you, which in the wild, they would do with their family.

♣  The Role of Oxytocin

Oxytocin, often referred to as the "love hormone," plays a significant role in bonding between humans and animals. Research has shown that interactions with pets can increase oxytocin levels in both the human and the animal. While most studies focus on dogs, there is evidence suggesting that similar processes occur in cats, reinforcing the idea that cats are capable of forming deep, affectionate bonds with their owners.

The Impact of Human Absence on Cats

Separation Anxiety in Cats

Separation anxiety is well-documented in dogs, but it is also present in cats, though it may manifest differently. Cats with separation anxiety may display behaviors such as excessive vocalization, inappropriate elimination, and destructive behavior when left alone. These signs indicate that the cat experiences distress and misses its owner.

Mitigating Separation Anxiety

For cats that exhibit signs of missing their owners, there are several strategies to mitigate anxiety:

1. Gradual Departures:
Gradually increasing the time you spend away from your cat can help them adjust to your absence.

2. Environmental Enrichment:
Providing toys, climbing structures, and interactive feeders can keep your cat mentally and physically stimulated while you are away.

3. Comfort Items:
Leaving items with your scent, such as clothing or bedding, can provide comfort to your cat in your absence.

4. Companion Animals:
In some cases, having another pet can provide companionship and reduce loneliness for your cat.

The Human-Cat Bond

The bond between humans and cats is complex and multifaceted. It is shaped by both the cat's and the owner's behaviors, experiences, and interactions. This bond is not just a one-sided relationship but a dynamic and reciprocal connection.

a. Historical Perspective

The domestication of cats is a relatively recent phenomenon compared to dogs. Cats began their relationship with humans around 9,000 years ago, primarily as vermin hunters in agricultural societies. Over time, this relationship evolved from a mutually beneficial arrangement to one of companionship. This historical context helps us understand the independent yet affectionate nature of cats.

b. Individual Differences

Just like humans, cats have individual personalities. Some cats are naturally more sociable and affectionate, while others are more independent. These personality differences influence how each cat forms and expresses its bond with its owner.


The question of whether cats miss their owners can be answered affirmatively. Cats do form strong attachments to their owners, displaying behaviors that indicate distress in their absence and joy upon their return. These behaviors, combined with scientific research, demonstrate that cats are capable of forming meaningful and affectionate bonds with their human companions. While they may express their emotions differently than dogs, the love and attachment they feel are no less real. Understanding and recognizing these behaviors can deepen the bond between cat owners and their feline friends, leading to a more fulfilling and harmonious relationship.

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