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Cats And People

Updated on April 12, 2015

In a previous article, "The Co-Evolution Of Man And Dog" , I wrote about the dog and how it had evolved alongside humans to be a perfect companion and deserving of the title 'man's best friend'.

Dogs are great people. But I feel no different about cats. And so I feel it's only right that I now present to you this article about cats and their owners.

There is in our culture a strong belief, shared by many, that a person's preference for a type of pet tells us something about their personality. But is this true?

According to research published in 2012, it is, but only to some degree.

The researchers found a correlation between some personality characteristics and owning a cat or dog. But a correlation is just that: it means there is a link between the two, but it says nothing about the direction in which that link operates or whether it's a direct or indirect link. It also merely indicates a trend. It's highly possible that person A with characteristic 1 has a dog, even though the correlation says person A should have characteristic 2. It says something about two groups compared to each other on average, but nothing about the individuals in that group.

This beauty is called Kitty. At the time the picture was taken, she was 14 years old! Sure doesn't look it, does she? She's very attached, always wants to be around us, and knows exactly how to get what she wants.
This beauty is called Kitty. At the time the picture was taken, she was 14 years old! Sure doesn't look it, does she? She's very attached, always wants to be around us, and knows exactly how to get what she wants. | Source

So what exactly did they find?

According to the study, cat people tend to have a more open personality and will more easily seek new experiences. They're more highly appreciative of art and adventure, and less conventional. They also tend to have a higher degree of trust. On the other hand, they are more introverted. They will also prefer to work alone as opposed to in group and can be less assertive. They have less self discipline. They're more likely to live in an apartment and to be female.

They also tend to have a higher degree of education. To be more precise: people with a higher education are 1.4 times more likely to own a cat than a dog. This does not necessarily mean they are smarter. Again, it's a correlation, saying nothing about causation. The most likely explanation offered for this finding is that people who have a high degree tend to need to put in more hours at work, and therefore have less time to care for a pet. Cats are more independent.

The bond between a cat and its owner is far stronger than is traditionally believed. Cats don't just like their owner because they get food, but because of social reasons. It also seems to be strongest between a woman and her cat. But we need to take this with a grain of salt, as the study contained a limited sample of men.

The personality of the owner also influences the personality of the cat. Those whose owners were extroverted or conscientious tended to show a more complex pattern of behavior.

Kitty found a cardboard box (after we had ordered something online) and naturally assumed it was a present for her.
Kitty found a cardboard box (after we had ordered something online) and naturally assumed it was a present for her. | Source

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In 2008, another team investigated general cat personalities. The stereotypical image of cats is that they are independent, unattached and don't really have much interest in what humans do. But this is not what they found.

In this article, Attachment Styles , I told you about the Attachment Theory and the Strange Situation. Attachment Theory merely states there are four different styles in which humans tend to form bonds. The Strange Situation helps us discern which style someone falls under.

The researchers applied this theory to how cats and humans form a relationship. It turns out cats have a lot in common with young children. They are more relaxed and more prone to investigation and play when human mommy or daddy is around. When a stranger is with them however, not only do they stop exploring, they also meow far less. Cats also influence their dinner time, as do kids. They can have a positive effect on our mood, making us feel better when we're down.

Begging for playtime
Begging for playtime | Source

But if they like us so much, why do they sometimes ignore us?

Japanese investigators think this is due to a powerful survival instinct. In the wild, cats are predators. If they show weakness, they not only lose their place in the pack, but they are more likely to die.

Cats can differentiate between the voice of their owner and that of a stranger. When hearing the owner, a cat will not only turn his ears or head in the direction the sound is coming from, but its pupils will dilate, indicating excitement or an emotional response. So when they don't do as we say, it's not because they don't like us, it's because they were never taught to follow our commands as dogs were!

And of course, they at one point in history were revered as deities. And they've clearly never forgotten.

As A Bonus...

To finish this article, let's end with a really fun video I found on Youtube by Fatawesome. Be sure to check out their channel as they have more where this came from. Are you a cat friend, or a dog friend? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Are you a cat friend or a dog friend?


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