You probably want to slap people who tell you they have pets when you ask if they have children - and, I confess, I have gotten dirty looks when people have asked me if I have pets and I tell them I instead have children, which are 'just like' pets - but the social bond that crazy cat lady has with her cats actually is like what people have with their children, say the researchers.
Discovery writer Jennifer Viegas (outstanding title - Cats Adore, Manipulate Women and hat tip to RealClearScience for highlighting it) interviewed one of the researchers, Jon Day, a Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition researcher, who said, "Food is often used as a token of affection, and the ways that cats and humans relate to food are similar in nature to the interactions seen between the human caregiver and the pre-verbal infant."
They videotaped and analyzed cat-owner interactions and made their determinations from there. How does one 'assess' a cat? Hey, just go with it, don't get bogged down in the scientific method, and studies like these are a lot more fun. As Viegas writes, "The researchers determined that cats and their owners strongly influenced each other, such that they were each often controlling the other's behaviors."
Outgoing women with young, active cats enjoyed the greatest synchronicity, they found. Sure, plenty of men like cats (though none I intend to watch baseball with) but "female owners have more intense relationships with their cats than do male owners" Manuela Wedl of the University of Vienna told Viegas.
Luckily, the researchers are tackling men and dogs next. I bet we find out the plot of "Cats&Dogs" is not as far-fetched (pardon the pun) as it seems.