Q: We have three cats. My husband says they’re friendly and get along well because we’re easy-going and consistent. Is there any basis for his theory, or are we just lucky?
A: Recent research supports your husband’s theory.
A survey of 3,331 cat owners correlated five of their personality traits—agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, neuroticism and openness—with their cats’ physical health and behavior.
Researchers found that increased neuroticism among owners was associated with more aggression, anxious/fearful behaviors and other behavior problems among their cats. In addition, these cats were more likely to be overweight and to have stress-related illnesses and other chronic medical conditions.
Increased conscientiousness on the part of the cat owners was associated with more friendly behaviors, fewer aloof/avoidance behaviors, less aggression and fewer anxious/fearful behaviors by their cats.
Research has established similar patterns with children. Parents who measure high on neuroticism scales are more likely to have children with physical and/or mental health issues, behavior problems and poor quality of life.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.