Does Owner Personality Impact Pet Health?

Published: August 1, 2019

Academy Animal Hospital Greenwood Franklin

It’s a common cliché, that owners and their pets resemble each other, but there may be more to this than you think, Have you ever wondered how your personality may affect your pet, and even your pet’s health? A recent study from Michigan State University looked into this, and we think you will find the results interesting.

The Pet Looks Like it’s Owner… Fact or Fiction?

While the phrase that the pet resembles the owner seems cliché, a study done at the University of California, San Diego shows this may actually be true. The study, which included taking pictures of dogs and their owners separately and having a controlled group of individuals making a match of owner-to-dog, they were able to make matches with a high level or accuracy.

For some, this meant superficial things like long-haired women tended to have long-eared, long-haired dogs, and chubbier dogs tended to have owners that were heavier as well. The study looked deeper and discovered that when the owners’ or dogs’ eyes were covered, it was far more difficult for the match to be made. In other words, the eyes have it – and can also show a reflection or a person’s (or a dog’s) temperament.

Going Beyond Looks – Pet Personality: Nature vs Nurture

Every breed has defining traits. For instance, Labrador dogs and Ragdoll cats are considered the easygoing types, while Abyssinian cats and Australian Shepherd dogs are considered to be the more high-maintenance, high-strung breeds. Also, Sphinx cats and Beagles top the charts for most likely to be overweight, cementing their reputation as food lovers.

However, there are many more factors aside from breed that play a part in your pet’s health – both mental and physical.

Mental Health – Yours and Your Pets

Mental health is a subject that has recently found itself in the forefront of the media, but did you know it applies to our pets as well? This Michigan State University study showed that, like their humans, pet personalities are subject to change over time.

Life changes affect your pet just as they affect you. The study shows adopted shelter pets that showed signs of anxiety and aggression may find it more difficult to adjust when their owner is also high strung.

In fact, the Michigan State University study showed that owners that were more on edge also had dogs that were anxious/aggressive in social situations, extroverted individuals raised more excitable and active dogs, and quieter, calmer individuals tended to raise easy-going dogs.

Physical Health Implications

Going further into the effects of owner personality and health of the pet, a recent study performed by researchers from the University of Lincoln and Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom has shown that the human personality can substantially affect the nature of care and the health of their non-human dependents.

Owner personality was broken down into five different types – Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Neuroticism, and Openness. Each owner shared information about their cats’ physical health, breed, behavioral traits, and how the cats’ life was managed.

After correlating over 3,000 responses, the researchers found relationships between the owners’ personality and the potential for health problems in the cat. Those owners who scored higher on the neuroticism scale tended to have primarily indoor cats who displayed stress-related illnesses, ongoing medical conditions, and a tendency to be overweight.

Extroverted owners tended to allow their cat to have access to the outdoors, while more conscientious owners noted cats with anxious, fearful behaviors and stress related illnesses.

What Does It Mean For You?

As a pet owner, you can probably step back and see how your animal may relate to your own personality – and when you do, you may find you’ll be more conscious of your own behaviors – or at least be aware of their implications. Of course, if you have questions about your pet’s behaviors or possible medical concerns, connect with us at Academy Animal Hospital.