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A beautiful cat in arms of her owner.

Cats seek comfort and confidence from their caregivers, suggesting that the cat–human tie can be as strong as that between toddlers and the adults who tend them. Credit: miodrag ignjatovic/iStock/Getty

Animal behaviour

Cats truly bond to their people

A test shows that a majority of felines are well attached to their caregivers.

Domestic cats have a reputation for being aloof and emotionally distant from the humans in their lives. Thus it came as a surprise to Kristyn Vitale at Oregon State University in Corvallis and her colleagues that felines are as firmly bonded to their owners as young children are to their primary caregivers.

In a standard experiment on humans, a caregiver briefly leaves their child alone in an unfamiliar environment and then returns. Securely attached kids tend to check in with the returning adult and then resume calmly exploring the space. Those with less secure attachments either ignore their returning caregiver or cling to them nervously. These experiments show that about 65% of human children are ‘securely attached’ to their caregivers.

When Vitale and her team ran a similar experiment with 70 kittens, 64.3% approached their owners and gazed at or nuzzled them. These animals were categorized as securely attached. A follow-up experiment involving 38 older cats found that nearly the same proportion were securely attached. Maybe our cats actually love us after all — or most of them do, anyhow.

More Research Highlights...

Camera-trap image of Dendrohyrax interfluvialis

Some tree hyraxes scream in the night, but the newly identified Dendrohyrax interfluvialis (above, camera-trap image) utters a complex series of squawks, rattles and barks. Credit: J. F. Oates et al./Zool. J. Linn. Soc.

Zoology

A bark in the dark reveals a hidden hyrax

Its neighbours scream, but a new species of tree hyrax — a cousin of the elephant — unleashes a rattling bark.
Plastic and other debris floats underwater in blue water

Plastic detritus from snacks and meals floats in the Red Sea. Marine sampling shows that food waste accounts for nearly 90% of plastic pollution at some locales. Credit: Andrey Nekrasov/Barcroft Media/Getty

Ocean sciences

Humanity’s fast-food habit is filling the ocean with plastic

Food bags, drink bottles and similar items account for the biggest share of plastic waste near the shore.
Conceptual artwork of a pair of entangled quantum particles.

An artist’s impression of ‘entangled’ particles, which share properties even at a distance. Entangled photons can be used to help secure a multi-party video meeting. Credit: Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library

Quantum information

Quantum keys dial up tamper-proof conference calls

A new experiment efficiently distributes the highly secure keys to four parties instead of the typical two.
Farmers harvest pineapples in a field.

Workers harvest pineapples in Lingao County, China. Less than one-third of the money spent on food eaten at home reaches farmers. Credit: Yuan Chen/VCG/Getty

Economics

Poor harvest: farmers earn a pitiful fraction of the money spent on food

The bulk of consumer food spending around the world ends up in the coffers of distributors, processors and other parties beyond the farm gate.
A woman wearing a protective face mask splashes her hands in a jet of water

A pedestrian seeks relief from searing temperatures in Spain, where a high proportion of heat-related deaths have been linked to climate change. Credit: SALAS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Climate change

More than one-third of heat deaths blamed on climate change

Warming resulting from human activities accounts for a high percentage of heat-related deaths, especially in southern Asia and South America.
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