What makes YOU a cat person?

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20 October 2014
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Is it true that being drawn to cats says something about your personality??Psychologist and cat owner Dr Nicola Davies investigates for us.Nicola says: "I have three cats that clearly have very different personalities. I watch them daily, analysing whether one is more affectionate because he was hand-reared, while another is so playful because she grew up?with her siblings. Finally, there is the one who is like me, who always puts the others first."It is often believed that pets and their owners develop the same personalities, somehow merging or 'catching' each other's traits and foibles. I'll be taking a look at some of the beliefs around cats and their owners and explore some of the research that sheds light on the personality of cat lovers.?

One way to gain an understanding of a cat owner's personality is to take a look at the character of their feline companion. Cats and their owners are most often contrasted with dogs and their owners. In particular, compared to dogs, which are very dependent, cats are often judged to be solitary animals who don't feel any pressure to fit in or be a certain way. Thus, according to American vet Dr Michael Fox, people who are not afraid to be alone and have very strong convictions, like the cat, are most likely to be attracted to and choose cats as pets. These are people who do not stress about how other people view or accept them.

This perspective turns the stereotype of the 'loner' cat owner on its head,?indicating that cat owners are actually best described as independent and focused.

On the other hand, the dog owner who is usually seen as extremely sociable,?could merely be demonstrating the co-dependency that is also common in their hounds. A co-dependent person is greatly affected by another person's behaviour and wishes to control that behaviour; traits much more evident in?dog owners than cat owners.

We are not aloof!

Being more self-sufficient and self-reliant, cat owners know how to look after themselves. Moreover, they are usually willing to explore and are not afraid of taking risks. They also know their strengths and limitations. The cat is the perfect model of self-sufficiency, making them the ideal pet for this personality type. Cats know how to satisfy themselves alone and how to meet other needs by interacting with humans. They can also instinctively know how to set limitations between themselves and humans, creating a balance of contact and personal space. Far from being aloof, cat owners and their felines have struck the perfect balance of intimacy and isolation. In other words, cat owners and their feline friends have an interdependent relationship.

kittens on bed with woman

Forming partnerships

Interdependence is very different to codependence and is about making allies?and forming partnerships. It is a way of remaining free and independent, while also recognizing that close bonds are needed for survival and to have certain needs met. This explains why cats can be so independent one moment, and yet so needy at other times. Indeed, research conducted by Professor Kurt Kotrschal of the University of Vienna showed that cats, as well as being independent, are affectionate and like to receive attention. They recognize their need for personal space, but also for love and affection. These characteristics are often found in the cat owner, who can relate to their?cats need for both space and closeness.

Know your cat's personality

Just as humans have their own personality traits, so do their feline companions. Interestingly, in addition to general feline characteristics, cats' dispositions will vary according to their breed and their experiences from an early age. Given the distinct characteristics of some pedigrees, it comes as no surprise that cat lovers are usually drawn to a breed that reflects their personality.

Some people also believe that coat colour can be a determining factor of a?cat's personality, although this has yet to be verifi d. Torties have a reputation for being a bit naughty, while gingers are often said to be bolder in nature. The notion that colour determines a cat's personality might be based on an owner's experience of a previous cat and expectations of finding similarities in their new cat. It is possible that this can influence interaction to the extent that the cat starts to behave like the owner's previous pet. In a similar way cats and their owners can start to reflect each other's personality in what experts call the 'mini me' effect. However, this does not mean that you absorb your pet's personality or vice versa, but rather that you adapt to each other in time.

Delving deeper into the cat owner's personality

According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test (devised by psychologists in the 1960s), there are four base temperament types that?form an individual's personality:

? Sensation/perceiving type: these people have a desire to be free, tend to be impulsive, and are always looking for action and adventure

? Sensation/judging type: such people feel the need to fit in and

belong, which makes them feel obligated to do and perform what

others expect of them

? Intuitive/thinking type: described as competent, these people have the desire to understand and control nature

? Intuitive/feeling type: always striving to show their 'real self', these people want to reach their highest potential.

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It is believed that while many people will be made up of a combination of these types, we will relate to one type more strongly than the others. Cats tend to be a combination of the sensation/perceiving and intuitive/feeling?types because of their semi-wild and independent natures. Therefore, people who have the same personality types are more likely to be cat owners. Cat owners who do not fi t into these personality types might sometimes feel that they cannot understand their cat's behaviour.

Can you love your cat too much?

There is nothing wrong with regarding your cat as a family member and showering him with love and affection. However, there are some cases where this bond becomes destructive, eating into an owner's physical and psychological wellbeing. Over-attachment and cat hoarding are examples of when the human-cat relationship has gone to the extreme.?

Cat behaviour counsellor Vicky Halls says: "We all love our cats but it is possible to take that love to a level that is not in the best interests of the owner or the animal."

Indeed, an over-attached owner often begins to focus their entire existence on their cat, giving up their social life for their pet. In extreme cases, this can lead to co-dependency, which Vicky describes as "an emotional bond between cat and owner that is addictive in nature, causing withdrawal symptoms in either party when separated."

Animal hoarding, on the other hand, is defined as collecting a large number of animals without giving them adequate care and nutrition.

If you are concerned about either of these you may wish to speak to a psychologist and/or a cat behaviourist. Ask your vet for referral to a?suitable behaviourist, or find a psychologist in your area at www.bacp.co.uk or tel. 01455 883300.

Mysteries

The personality of the cat owner is as intricate and complex as the?bond that can be shared between feline and human. Furthermore, although cat owners and their cats have some similarities in their behaviours, the owner does not take on their pet's personality or vice-versa. Instead they complement each other. Sensitivity to one another's needs can come from a bond that is strengthened through a mutual understanding.

woman and kitten

Separating myth from fact

Cat people are nurturing

It is well known that humans have an innate attraction for nurturing living things. "We are designed so that we are healthier when we are nurturing someone else... our animals give us this opportunity," says Dr Aaron Katcher,?author of 'Between People and Pets: The Importance of Animal Companionship'. In his research he revealed that the same desire to look after and nurture human babies is what drives cat lovers to choose cats as pets; they think of?cats as babies that need to be taken care of because of their infantile physical attributes - big eyes, little nose and a size no bigger than an average baby.

Most cat owners are female

It appears that cats and women have a more natural bond than cats and men,?but this doesn't necessarily mean more women own cats. Surveys suggest an?increasing number of men are becoming cat lovers. This is thought to be?because cats are generally low maintenance. It is also more convenient to own cats than dogs if you are a citydweller. Alex Buckley from Bedford has three cats. He says: "They are independent and yet there when I want company. They might not be 'macho' pets, but they are perfect for my lifestyle."

Cat people are more 'open' to new experiences

In psychology, 'open' is a general term used to describe a creative and artistic nature. Many cat owners tend to be people who embrace the new and?are not afraid of change. This kind of thinking often manifests in artists?who are creative and unconventional. Many poets, musicians, authors, and public figures are professed cat lovers. Some names from history include?Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, the Bront? sisters, Winston Churchill and?Marie Antoinette.

Cat owners are more likely to be single

A recent survey conducted by Purina New Zealand revealed that 30 per cent of the respondents who were cat owners said they were single, compared to 14.6 per cent of dog owners. However, it soon becomes clear the statistics do not indicate these people are single because they have cats. Rather, they've chosen not to be in a relationship for various reasons unrelated to having a cat. Furthermore, the number of those cat owners who were in a relationship?totalled 60.2 per cent, challenging the myth that cat owners are more likely to be single.?