Cat owners with negative feelings are more likely to report cat problems

Human character can be categorised in five ways which must overlap to varying extents. They are: Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Neuroticism and Openness. I want to look at the penultimate character trait: neuroticism.

It sounds very negative and critical but I think you’ll find that psychiatrists define neurotic people as those who have negative thoughts and are less emotionally stable. It isn’t all bad and perhaps in these difficult days people who might be labelled as neurotic are increasing in number.

Neurotic cat owners perceive their cat differently
Neurotic cat owners perceive their cat differently. Image: MikeB
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Neuroticism and cat caretaking

How does a neurotic person relate to their cat companion compared to someone who is not labelled in this way? There is a distinct difference according to scientists.

A large number of cat owners (3,331) completed a questionnaire (see survey title below). They concluded that people saddled with neuroticism were:

  • More likely to adopt a non-pedigree cat (a random-bred i.e., a moggy) rather than a pedigree, purebred cat.
  • Less likely to allow their cat free access to the outside i.e., an indoor/outdoor cat. This means that they were more likely to believe that cats should be kept indoors full-time.
  • More likely to believe that their cat had a behavioral problem.
  • More likely to report that their cat was anxious or fearful with associated behavior i.e., hiding.
  • More likely to report their cat as being overweight.
  • More likely to report their cat as being aggressive.
  • More likely to believe that their cat suffered from stress related sickness behaviour. I take the last point as to mean more likely to suffer from a disease such as cystitis.
  • More likely to report that their cat had an ongoing medical condition.

In contrast, cat owners who are more extrovert are more likely to adopt the indoor/outdoor cat model.

Cat owners labelled ‘agreeable’ were more likely to be satisfied with their cat and that he/she had a normal weight.

Cat owners labelled ‘conscientious’ were more likely to find that their cat less anxious or fearful, less aggressive, less aloof and avoidant and more gregarious.

Thoughts

My overriding first thought on these findings is that a cat owner’s perceptions about their cat are just that. They might not be rooted in reality but they might be. It is about what the owner thinks.

And keeping cats inside all the time is as much about keeping cats safe from dangers outside the home such as from predators in the US as it is achieving peace of mind for the caregiver. Neurotic cat owners are more likely to see the potential dangers outside which encourages or compels them to keep their cats inside.

As to neurotic people regarding their cats as more aggressive this may because they are more stressed themselves and occasionally interact with their cat in a less than optimal manner. Or they are more sensitive towards aggressive behaviour of any kind.

And the perception that their cat is sick might be because they have hypochondriacal tendencies believing that they are ill when they are not.

As to cats belonging to neurotic people being perceived as overweight, this might be the product of keeping their cats indoors all the time. The cat becomes bored and as they are well fed by an anxious owner they put on weight. Just a guess.

Study title: Owner personality and the wellbeing of their cats share parallels with the parent-child relationship. Link: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0211862

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