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- Research suggests cats mirror our behaviour and mood.
- If you’re anxious, this could mean your cat is more fearful and overweight.
- People with dark personality traits are also more likely to have cats who bully others.
- There’s a theory that cats think people are just big, stupid cats.
- But there’s another theory that they’re plotting to kill us the entire time.
According to new research from Nottingham Trent University, cats also notice when we’re stressed out or anxious, and can be less healthy as a result.
The study, published in the journal PLOS One, looked at the personality, behaviour, and health of 3,331 cats. Researchers found that owners and cats mirrored each other’s wellbeing and behaviour.
“Our personalities may be an important factor in relation to how we interact with and manage our cats, and this can have important consequences for their wellbeing,” Lauren Finka, the lead author of the study, told PsyPost. “Cats may not always find living as our pets easy, and it’s important that we are aware of how our behaviour may be impacting upon them, in both positive and negative ways.”
For example, people with neuroses were more likely to have overweight cats with ongoing medical problems. Their cats were also more likely to develop stress-related sickness and behavioural problems like aggression and fear.
People who weren’t so anxious were more likely to have cats of a normal weight and temperament. Meanwhile, open, sociable people were more likely to see that mirrored in their cats too.
“This study merely identifies a correlation between owner personality and aspects of cat behaviour, management and wellbeing and cannot assume causation,” said Finka to PsyPost. “Further research is needed in order to understand if, and how, aspects of the owner’s personalities are directly influencing the welfare of their cats.”
Earlier this month, a smaller study from the University of Liverpool, published in Personality and Individual Differences, also found that cats are in sync with their owners.
Researchers gave 126 cat parents questionnaires to measure five personality traits known as the “Feline Five” – friendliness, spontaneity, dominance, neuroticism, and extroversion. They were asked to rate statements like “My cat challenges the usual dominance order with other cats/people in the household.”
Owners completed their own surveys, rating statements like “I sympathise with others’ feelings,” “I tend to lack remorse” and “I tend to want others to admire me.”
Results showed owners who had dark traits like narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy were more likely to have cats who were more dominant and impulsive cats.
“Dominant cats are greedy, defiant, and aggressive and bullying towards people/other cats, which could be attractive to potential owners who have similar tendencies in their own social interactions,” the researchers suggested in their conclusion. “Impulsive cats are excitable and erratic, which could be pleasing to impulsive owners.”
It’s impossible to know exactly what our furry friends are thinking, and as these types of studies tend to be self-reported, they can be unreliable.
But it’s always fun to hypothesise. For example, anthrozoologist John Bradshaw has a theory that cats think we are all just big, stupid cats who are oddly non-hostile. Other research suggests your cat is a small conniving lion that may be plotting to get rid of you.
If that’s the case, and your cat does actually mirror your mood, it might be in your best interest not to have too many murderous thoughts.