It’s well-known that parents’ personality characteristics can influence their children. But a new study suggests that the same might also be true of cat parents.
In the study, researchers in the United Kingdom surveyed 3,331 cat owners. They asked the cat owners both about their own personality traits and about the health, wellbeing and behaviors of their cats.
Cats owned by people with different personality traits tended to display different characteristics themselves.
For example, owners with high levels of neuroticism, a tendency to feel negative emotions like anxiety, sadness and anger, reported that their cats were:
- Less likely to have free access to the outdoors
- More likely to have a “behavioral problem”
- More likely to have aggressive or fearful patterns of behavior
- More likely to have a medical condition
- More likely to be overweight
On the other hand, owners with high levels of conscientiousness, a tendency to be self-disciplined and organized, reported that their feline companions were:
- Less likely to have aggressive, fearful or aloof patterns of behavior
- More sociable
Owners with higher levels of extraversion, meanwhile, more frequently reported letting their cats have unfettered access to the outdoors. And more agreeable owners reported being generally more satisfied with their cats, as well as having cats that were less likely to be overweight or underweight.
The researchers also found that the number of cats someone owned was related to personality. People who owned multiple cats tended, above all, to have lower levels of extraversion. But they also tended to have lower levels of agreeableness and neuroticism, and higher levels of conscientiousness and openness.
The study didn’t investigate why there’s an apparent link between owner personality and cat wellbeing. Since the study relied on owners to report their cats’ characteristics, it’s possible to some extent that owners with different personality traits perceived their cats differently. And in any case, these patterns are averages, so you certainly can’t assess whether a given individual is a “good” cat owner based solely on five personality traits.
Still, it’s not so far out to think that some of the things looked at in the study, like whether cats are allowed outdoors, would indeed be influenced by owner personality and would in turn affect the kitties’ wellbeing. In the words of the researchers, “these findings demonstrate that the relationship between carer personality and the care received by a dependent, may extend beyond the human family to animal-owner relationships.”