The five types of relationships cats can have with their owners, according to research
Shutterstock / Clare Barker Wells

Have you ever wondered what kind of relationship you have with your cat?

Look no further, as scientists cracked the code.

Researchers from the University of Lincoln in England polled nearly 4,000 cat owners about their behaviors towards their feline companions and vice versa. As a result, they discovered five distinct types of relationships:


The owners, are emotionally invested in the cats and will play with them. The cats are also warm and friendly towards their owners, guests, and neighbors. There is a healthy balance as these owners and cats are independent. This relationship is common in a household with more than one cat, and the cats can also access the outdoors. 


The owners are “very emotionally invested” in their cats. The owner normally plays with the cat and also can be seen as part of the same social group. Cats in this relationship tend to be friendly as they lick their owners’ hands and faces and could be clingy or have separation anxiety. It’s also worth noting that this is a common relationship in a one-person household where cats have no access to the outdoors.

Remote association

Owners care for their cats in this type of relationship, but they are not viewed to be “a part of the family.” These owners also may not be close to their cats on an emotional level, even though the cats are friendly. Oftentimes, these cats like to maintain their distance from people because they “lack confidence.”

Casual relationship

These particular cats prefer to be outside than be in the house. They may frequent several homes within an area and maybe leave for days at a time. Although they’re friendly, they will not try to stay close to somebody that cares for them. 

Open relationship

The cats can relate with people and have some affiliation with the owner but don’t really require it. They’re also seen as aloof.

Shutterstock / lucrezia senserini88

Adding on to the study, the researchers also created an interactive quiz for cat owners to find out for themselves what relationship they have with their furry friends.

They asked questions such as “My cat will not go away if I eat” and” I think my cat would be just as happy living with someone else (like the next-door neighbor),” to name a couple.

“Cats form close emotional relationships with humans, yet little is known about this. This study characterized different types of relationships that cats might establish with their owners,” said Daniel Mills, the author of the paper and animal behavior expert at the University of Lincoln.

“Sociability in terms of acceptance of others should not be confused with the close contact and exchanges associated with affiliation, and while many cats may be aloof, it seems that this is not as common as might be commonly portrayed”, Mills also noted, in part.

He also noted that the bond between the cat and owner has to do with “the dynamic between both individuals involved and their personality features” and “level of emotional investment,” which determines their relationship.

Mills and fellow colleagues designing the study and questionnaire was to “identify and characterize the owners’ perceptions of the different relationships cats have with them” while utilizing social support and attachment theories as a foundation to justify the human-cat relationship.

Ultimately, the hope is that the study will improve people’s relationships with their cats while bettering pet care overall.

Check out the complete study here.

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