Conventional wisdom says that providing your cat with an item that smells like you provides comfort in unfamiliar settings. It’s often recommended that cat parents bring a piece of clothing when a cat has to be left at the vet or in any unfamiliar environment. But are cats really comforted by our scent?
A recent study looked at this issue. The research focused on the concept of the Secure Base Effect, which is based on the premise that being with someone you are bonded with can reduce stress and help you feel comfortable exploring unfamiliar environments, a theory first developed in humans. The study looked at whether a human, or an object that smelled like them, would provide a “secure base” for a cat left alone in an unfamiliar space.
The results showed that most cats were comforted by the presence of their owners when being in a strange place, but did not receive much comfort from the presence of the human-scented item once their human left the space.
Dr. Mikel Delgado took a closer look at the study on her blog, What Your Cat Wants.
I think the fact that the study was conducted in a laboratory setting with a stranger present limits the validity of the results. Like Mikel, I would like to see a study that eliminates the “stranger effect,” and I’d also like to know whether cats would be more comforted by an item that smells like them, such as a favorite bed or blanket, when in an unfamiliar environme nt.
Click here for more information about the study.