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If you think the cat is neurotic, you should see its owner

Ginger nervous cat
© Shutterstock

A scientific study has revealed that a cat’s personality and health are connected to the neuroses of their owner.

By G. John Cole Published on 17 Feb 2019

The cats of neurotic people tend to be more neurotic and less healthy than the cats of calmer human beings, according to the research. It is not yet clear whether neurotic humans are making their cats more neurotic or vice versa – or whether they are just as bad as each other.

Analysis for cats

“[M]y experience from working with cats over the last decade has really highlighted to me just how much humans can potentially affect the behaviour and welfare of cats, just by how we interact with and manage them,” said study author Lauren Finka, as reported in PsyPost.  

“A lot [of] the time this is probably happening without us even being aware of it. I was therefore keen to conduct a study that investigated this phenomenon scientifically.”

Finka is a post-doctoral research associate at Nottingham Trent University. Along with her team, she surveyed over 3,000 cat owners in the UK, asking them to rate their own personalities as well as the health and personalities of their cats. Owners who rated themselves more ‘agreeable’ reported that their cats were of a healthy weight, and were less aggressive or aloof than the cats reviewed by self-diagnosed ‘neurotic’ people.  The cats of extroverts, the figures showed, tend themselves to be more extroverted.

Projection & Trans-fur-ence

One other possibility raises its furry head: that neurotic owners who report that their cats are neurotic and unhealthy may be projecting their own personality traits onto their beloved pets. And extroverted owners may see their cats as boisterous, outgoing types – even if the poor creatures would rather be left alone to enjoy some good worry time – due to psychological ‘projection.

“A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively," according to Dustin Wood, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest and author of a 2010 study on how we perceive each other, as reported in ScienceDaily

"The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders." In other words, it may be best to get both yourself and your cat analyzed before you book the critter in for a lengthy and expensive course of therapy. It might turn out you’ve been looking in a mirror the whole time.