I think that this scientific study is telling us what we probably already know but it has some value nonetheless. As I understand it, it is more or less saying that people suffering from neuroticism are going to be less good at taking care of a companion cat than somebody who is better balanced and more agreeable. Note: this is not a criticism of neurotic people. We are all human with human failings and the world has become destabilised.
Definition of neuroticism: “Neuroticism is the trait disposition to experience negative affects, including anger, anxiety, self‐consciousness, irritability, emotional instability, and depression” (study on human neuroticism)
More specifically, the study states that neurotic people are more likely to adopt a non-pedigree cat and do the following:
- Let their cat go outside less often which I take to mean that they are going to keep their cats inside full-time more often than normal;
- Decide that their cat has a behavioural problem;
- Decide that their cat is more aggressive and anxious/fearful than normal;
- Allow their cat to become overweight;
- And drive their cat to more stress-related sickness behaviours which I presume means such things as over-grooming causing hair loss.
I take that information direct from the summary to the study which is titled: “Owner personality and the well-being of their cats share parallels with the parent-child relationship.”
It might be useful to comment on those points at this stage. For example, a person who is predisposed to neuroticism may well overfeed their cat in order to please their cat companion as they might have low self-esteem and want to feel needed. Or they are overweight themselves due to pleasure-eating, in which case they lose sight of normal weight. And if they themselves are demonstrating anxious behaviours this will be picked up by their cat companion who also becomes anxious and starts to over-groom. And perhaps, too, an anxious, neurotic person might lose their temper more often which creates a febrile atmosphere in the home which can lead to a cat being more anxious and fearful which in turn might lead them to becoming more aggressive on occasions.
The study’s scientists open up in their summary with a statement that truly is common sense namely: “Human personality may substantially affect the nature of care provided to dependents”. Of course, it does and it is a short step to agreeing that human personality must affect the human-cat relationship and the standard of care provided.
My mind is immediately turned to a sentence written by Dr. John Bradshaw in his popular book Cat Sense. He said: “Most cats are extraordinarily sensitive to human body language, much more so than they usually receive credit for”. He goes on to state that this sensitivity to human body language (and I will also include behaviour for obvious reasons) enables them to adapt their behaviour to the people they meet. It also enables them to adapt their behaviour to the people they live with, which supports the obvious, namely that the way a person lives affects the way their cat lives.
And neurotic people are more likely to have a more chaotic lifestyle than people who are more balanced, conscientious and agreeable. And I am not denigrating neurotic people. We can’t criticise neurotic people. I am sensitive their predicament. The world is quite a stressful place particularly nowadays. It’s quite easy for a person to become anxious. But there’s no doubt that some people, sadly, are not really able to care for a domestic cat because of their personality.
In this study they categorised cat owners using what they call the Big Five Inventory (BFI) which are: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, neuroticism and openness.
They predictably found that people who were more extrovert are more likely to allow their cat to go outside whenever they want to (ad libitum). When a person is more agreeable, they are more likely to find their cat agreeable i.e. they are satisfied with their cat’s behaviour. That, too, I think, is common sense. Agreeable people are also more likely to decide that their cat has the right weight.
And when a cat caregiver is conscientious their cat is less anxious, fearful, aggressive, aloof, avoidant behaviour and more gregarious than a cat living with a person who is more neurotic.
The study looks at the association between cat behaviour and the environment in which they live as created by their caregiver. It’s confirmation that domestic cats live in the human world and their behaviour is dictated quite strongly by human behaviour.
SOME MORE ON HUMAN BEHAVIOR/PERSONALITY: