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Do Cats Miss You When You’re Gone? Vet-Reviewed Facts on Feline Behavior

Written by: Kit Copson

Last Updated on February 28, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

lonely cat sits alone on a bed at home and sadly looks at the window

Do Cats Miss You When You’re Gone? Vet-Reviewed Facts on Feline Behavior


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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While cats are often judged as aloof and even indifferent, a 2019 study by the Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences (Oregon State University) suggests that cats are more attached to their human companions than we give them credit for.

Based on the researchers’ conclusion that cats can indeed bond deeply with their owners, it makes sense that cats can also miss us when we’re not around and respond positively to our return home. In this post, we’ll share the signs that your cat has missed you and discuss the findings of the study.

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Do Cats Miss Their Humans? Research Findings

In 2019, Oregon State University researchers conducted a study on attachment bonds between cats and humans. They observed the behaviors displayed by cats placed in a new room with their owner for 2 minutes and then left alone in the same room for 2 minutes without their owner before the owner re-entered the room.

The attachment styles shown by cats were categorized thus:
  • Secure
  • Insecure-ambivalent
  • Insecure-avoidant

Cats with a secure attachment style displayed a good balance of seeking attention and exploring the room on the caregiver’s return. Their stress levels also decreased; 64.3% of the cats studied displayed this attachment style.

Cats classified as insecure-ambivalent displayed higher levels of stress and a strong desire to be close to their caregiver when they returned, whereas insecure-avoidant cats displayed signs of stress and did not seek proximity with their caregiver. 35% of the cats studied displayed insecure attachment styles.

The results show that most cats’ stress levels decreased upon their owner’s return, and they were pleased to see them. This proves that cats are certainly capable of forming secure and profound bonds with humans.

To put this into perspective, studies on the attachment styles of human children found that 65% displayed secure attachment while 35% displayed insecure attachment. As for dogs, 58% displayed a secure attachment style and 42% displayed an insecure attachment style.

These figures are remarkably similar, and cats even surpass dogs by around 6% in terms of how many displayed a secure attachment style.

Cat Man Tattoo Sitting Owner
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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Signs Your Cat Misses You

If you’re curious to know if your cat truly misses you when you’re away, look out for these signs. Beware, though—not all of them are healthy.

1. Greeting You

If your cat comes trotting over to you when you get home and displays behaviors like headbutting you, purring, and chirping or trilling contentedly, this is a sure sign that they’re ecstatic to see you.

cat following owner to the kitchen seeking for attention
Image Credit: Yavdat, Shutterstock

2. Showing Signs of Affection

Bear in mind that not every cat is overt with their affections. Some won’t approach you or appear thrilled when you come home but may slowly blink at you from across the room or roll onto their back to display their tummy. If you head over to greet and fuss them, they may purr and rub against your hand. These are simply more subtle signs of affection.

3. Seeking Proximity

There’s nothing like coming home and your feline friend hopping up onto your lap for a cuddle or curling up next to you. If your cat does this, it’s the ultimate display of trust and contentment that their favorite human cushion is back.

Cat Owner with Laptop
Image Credit: Monster Ztudio, Shutterstock

4. Showing Signs of Anxiety

Unlike the other signs your cat misses you, this one is not so positive. Like dogs, some cats suffer from separation anxiety, which means they feel an abnormal level of stress when their human isn’t around. This can be caused by past trauma like abuse or abandonment, being orphaned, being an only cat, and changes in routine.

Female cats are more likely to experience separation anxiety than males, and being an indoor cat with only one caregiver can also play a role.

Signs of separation anxiety include:
  • Destructive behavior like scratching furniture
  • Going to the bathroom outside the litter box
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Carrying a favorite toy around
  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive clinginess

It may help to set boundaries by ignoring your cat when they’re being excessively demanding and rewarding them with attention when they’re calm. Setting a routine can also help, as can ensuring your cat gets plenty of mental stimulation and physical exercise with toys and play sessions. If nothing seems to help, it’s best to seek the advice of a vet to find out if treatment may be necessary.

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Final Thoughts

Given what researchers have discovered about cats’ attachment styles and their similarity to those of dogs and humans, it’s hard to imagine that they don’t miss us when we’re not around.

The survival instinct certainly plays a part in why cats become attached to their humans—we are their source of food, water, and shelter, after all—but the desire for companionship, warmth, and affection are just as important factors, despite cats’ unfair reputation for being solitary and unloving.

Featured Image Credit: Natalia Lebedinskaia, Shutterstock

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