AN ONLINE survey of 1,098 pet owners confirmed what many knew all along – crazy cat ladies do exist.
Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, who formulated the study found that many pet owners are actually neurotic and clingy.
To gauge the relationship between personality traits and attitude towards pets, the survey asked participants, who are 19 years to 86 years old, to specify if they believe they are a cat person, dog person, both or neither. They were also made to answer questions about their own personalities.
The study showed that those who consider themselves as cat people tend to be more creative and adventurous but also more anxious. In contrast, those who claim to be dog persons were summed up to be more extroverted and secure but unadventurous.
The online survey gathered respondents from the Craiglist community website under the “pets” category. It also targeted Facebook users whose accounts appear pet-related, as well as similar pages on Reddit. The study was conducted in 2013 and the results were later published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.
There were more dog people (38 percent) than cat people (19 percent) who joined the study. About 39 percent of those surveyed said they liked dogs and cats equally, while a mere three percent favored neither.
Majority of the participants (95.2 percent) said they were the primary caretakers for the pet and half of them kept their pets indoors only. The rest allowed their pets indoors and outdoors, with only 1 percent who kept pets just outdoors.
Results indicated that neuroticism, conscientiousness, choosing a dog as a favorite pet, and identifying as a Cat Person, Dog Person, or Both predicted affection for a pet.
Conscientiousness, extraversion, and openness decreased avoidant attachment to pets, and neuroticism increased anxious attachment to pets, the study stated.
Those who scored high on anxious attachment tended to need more reassurance from the objects of their affection, and in the survey those tended to be younger people who chose a cat as their favorite pet.
Both cat and dog lovers also appeared to require close attention with their pets, suggesting they spent a lot of time with them and were 'needy'.
Scientists said conscientiousness and neuroticism in pet owners could actually benefit dogs and cats.
“In a pet–human relationship, because the pet does not develop autonomy over his or her lifetime but instead remains dependent on the owner for care, anxious attachment may lead to the owner being more attentive and more sensitive to changes in his or her pet's behavior, or it may lead to more concern about his or her pet's physical and emotional states without any harm to the pet's emotional well-being,” the study said.
Researchers admit that because the survey participants were largely Caucasian, female, and American, it would be inappropriate to generalize their findings across other populations without further studies. They also acknowledge that there are still many unidentified factors that may contribute to pet attachment and affection for one's pet that must be studied.
Nevertheless, the study demonstrates that personality traits (particularly neuroticism and conscientiousness) and identification as a Cat Person, Dog Person, or Both are potentially important to the pet–human relationship.
It also suggests that identifying as Neither a cat person nor a dog person or having a pet who is not a cat or dog may be associated with a more avoidant, less affectionate relationship.
Researchers plan to study further why some pet owners consistently have more affectionate relationships with particular types of pets. Based on several studies in America, for example, dogs, unlike cats, receive more medical care and other things from their owners. More dogs also get adopted than cats, which are less likely to be reclaimed by their owners when they end up in animal shelters. A further study on human-pet bond should determine whether this is due to the characteristics of the pets, the owners, or both.
But for now there's scientific proof that the crazy cat lady next door is actually harmless. Forget about the stereotype. As the study showed, a cat lady doesn't necessarily have to be old and wear nothing but pajamas. She is actually creative and adventurous, although a little overbearing--but only with her cats.