Humans and Cats: A Nuanced Love Story

Cats and Their People

As any cat owner can tell you, the relationship between a cat and their person is a nuanced thing. More than any other pet, a cat’s independent spirit rules the relationship and dictates how much interaction happens on any given day. So why are we drawn to these cuddly, cute, sometimes aloof creatures? Here’s a look at the psychology of cats and cat people.

The psychology of cat people

Do you identify as a dog person, or a cat person? A study in 2010 asked 4,500 people to self-identify as either a dog person, cat person, both or neither, and looked at five personality traits using a self-report questionnaire.

People who identified themselves as cat people showed significantly higher scores for neuroticism and openness than dog people, and significantly lower scores for extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness. In other words, we (I’m a cat person) tend to stress more, be more open to a variety of experiences, but show poorer self-discipline, cooperativeness and assertiveness.

And according to another survey from 2010, people who are more highly educated were 1.4 times more likely to own a cat than a dog. This doesn’t mean that cat people are smarter than dog people, more that there’s a link between higher education and longer work hours. Cats are less time-consuming than dogs, and so people who work longer hours will be more likely to choose cats as pets to fit in with their work life. – via the Guardian

My Cat “Gets” Me

When you have a pet with you in the home, it’s easy to become accustomed to each other’s rhythms and begin to feel that your pet understands you. But do you ever wonder how much of that understanding is in your own head? Naysayers will tell you that your pet doesn’t understand you at all. But new research suggests that your cat does indeed understand your emotions – and he adjusts his behavior according to your moods!

New research has found the first strong evidence that cats are sensitive to human emotional gestures.

Moriah Galvan and Jennifer Vonk of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, US studied 12 cats and their owners. They found that the animals behaved differently when their owner was smiling compared to when they were frowning. Cats can read human facial expressions, and they learn this ability over time.

When faced with a smiling owner, the cats were significantly more likely to perform “positive” behaviours such as purring, rubbing or sitting on their owner’s lap. They also seemed to want to spend more time close to their owner when they were smiling than when the owner was frowning. The findings are published in the journal Animal Cognition.

The pattern was completely different when the 12 cats were presented with strangers, instead of their owners. In this setup, they showed the same amount of positive behaviour, regardless of whether the person was smiling or frowning.

The results suggest two things: cats can read human facial expressions, and they learn this ability over time. – via www.bbc.com

Do you have a cat in your home? How does having a cat impact your life?

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