Yes, you read that right: A study indicates that cats mirror the personality traits of their owners, both the good ones and the bad. The study, which comes out of Nottingham Trent University and the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom, actually builds on previous, smaller studies that seem to indicate the same conclusion — cats are only as nice as their people.
Researchers spoke with more than 3,000 cat owners, asking them a variety of questions that measured their personality traits according to the Big Five Inventory, a personality test that measures five major components: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. The findings indicate that certain traits that were more apparent in their owners were also observed in their cats.
In plain speak, if an owner was a more neurotic (read: stressed out and anxious) person, their cat also displayed some of the same behavioral issues. Owners who felt they were more extroverted, meanwhile, allowed their cat more time outside.
The study found that owners that reported behavioral problems in their cats scored high themselves for neuroticism. Also, the more cats in a home, the more the owner’s personality tended toward introversion, non-agreeableness and neuroticism. And owners of pedigreed cats suffered less from neuroticism than others.
Generally, owners that scored better for agreeableness were associated with more positive wellbeing outcomes for their cats, the study said. These agreeable owners were also more satisfied with their pets, and also tended to give their pets restricted access to the outdoors. Owners that scored highly in conscientiousness and openness reported their cats being more outgoing, less aggressive and less fearful.
Among its other findings, the study discovered that overweight cats tended to score lower in agreeableness and higher in neuroticism. Underweight cats, too, scored low in agreeableness but scored high in extroversion.
The study compared the relationship between cats and their owners to that of dependent children and their parents, noting that only about 30-60% of personality traits are inherited, while the rest are a result of psychosocial factors. The authors of the study said their results mirrored that of the effects of different parenting styles.
And this isn’t the only major breakthrough we’ve had when it comes to our furry feline friends. A 2013 study from the University of Messina’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Italy also concluded that cats adapt their lifestyle to that of their owners.
In that study, two groups of cats weres studied. In the first group, cats lived in smaller homes and stayed closer to their owners. The second group of cats lived indoor/outdoor lives on larger properties, and were kept out at night.
Eventually, the cats mirrored the lives of their owners in terms of eating, activity and sleep. The cats kept outside at night became more nocturnal.
“Our findings underline the high influence of human presence and care on the amount of activity and daily rhythm in cats,” researcher Giuseppe Piccione and his colleagues noted in the study, according to Live Science.
So what does this mean for us? Well, if your cat is acting twitchy and strange, maybe it’s a signal that you need to take measures to inject calm into your own life.