Many things can affect our personalities in both positive and negative ways. These modifiers range from our physical environment, biological influences, culture, to situational factors, and social affiliations. Some of these things are controllable and some are not. One aspect we do have control over is who we allow into our homes and families. Pets are at the center of many families in the United States. Pet ownership is a privilege and choice to commit to the lifelong care of an animal (AVMA, 2017). There are over 157 million pets in the United States alone, and of those, 74 million are cats and nearly 70 million are dogs (AVMA, 2012). What effects do owning these pets have on our personalities? Are cat owners less dominating, more introverted, and score higher in neuroticism, while dog owners are more dominating, extroverted, and lower in neuroticism? This paper aims to explore the published literature on the concurrent effects cats and dogs have in relation to their owner’s personalities and if these particular traits follow suspected trends in cat owners and dog owners.
Personality is defined as an individual’s unique characteristic patterns to behave, think, and feel (Miserandino, 2012). While personality can include many facets, it is often narrowed down to the following categories under the Five Factor Model: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (Matthews, Deary, & Whiteman, 2009). Researchers have found that personality changes over time and is influenced by many different factors (Cobb-Clark & Schurer, 2011). In its susceptibility to change, personality has been used to examine various tenets of life over a multitude of events for trends and stabilizations. It is clear that there are trends effecting pet owners’ personalities and that there are differences based on whether you own a cat or a dog (Peacock, Chur-Hansen, & Winefield, 2012).
A study that was conducted looked to determine if there were indeed differences between domestic cat owners and domestic dog owners and dominance. For this experiment, researchers took a different approach arguing that owners prefer pets that complement their personalities rather than reflect them (Alba & Haslam, 2015). To examine this concept, they ventured outside of the Five Factor Model and hypothesized that dog owners would score higher in dominance categories (social, interpersonal, narcissism, and competitiveness) than cat owners. What they ultimately found across two studies was that social dominance and competitiveness were coherent with their hypothesis, but interpersonal dominance and narcissism lacked any correlations. These trends persisted even after gender was controlled for. The studies established that individuals that score high on the traits of social dominance and competitiveness “tend to prefer submissive pets such as dogs, whose temperament complements their preference for dominance” (Alba & Haslam, 2015).
Conversely, in the current study, cat owners (N?=?126) completed a two section questionnaire. The owner section assessed three of the Big Five traits (agreeableness, extraversion, neuroticism), dominance, impulsiveness, the Dark Triad (narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy), and owner satisfaction with their cat. The pet section assessed the Feline Five (agreeableness, dominance, extraversion, impulsiveness, neuroticism). Positive associations were identified between owner and pet dominance and owner and pet impulsivity. Higher owner dominance also positively correlated with cat extraversion, impulsivity, and neuroticism and owner Dark Triad traits were positively correlated with cat dominance, impulsivity, and neuroticism. None of the owner personality traits related to satisfaction with the cat. Overall, owners were more satisfied with cats high in agreeableness and low in neuroticism. Dissimilarity in owner dominance and cat agreeableness, and owner impulsivity and cat agreeableness were correlated with higher satisfaction. Satisfaction was also positively associated with similarity in scores for owner Dark Triad and cat agreeableness. Future research is recommended, focusing on matching of non-identical personality traits. owner dominance and cat agreeableness dissimilarity, as well as dissimilarity in owner impulsivenessand cat agreeableness, and similarity in owner Dark Triad and cat agreeableness, related to higher satisfaction. Our data provides some preliminary support for assortative owner-cat personalities, as well as the influence of different pairings of personality on owner satisfaction.