It’s Okay to Be an Overbearing Pet Parent

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Photo: Roy Hsu/Corbis

Neurotic people probably make pretty great pet owners, concludes the author of a new study on pet-owner personality types, recently published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. In an online survey of about 1,000 pet owners, people who scored higher in neuroticism and conscientiousness also reported higher levels of affection for their dog or cat, which most likely means a better life for the animals, lead study author Mikel Delgado said in the press release for the study. 

The researchers also asked questions to determine the participants’ attachment styles; the surveys they used are typically used for assessing the relationship between romantic partners or parents and their (human) children. Pet owners scored low in avoidant attachment, which suggests at least some level of dependence on their pets, Delgado said. "The fact that higher levels of neuroticism are associated with affection and anxious attachment suggests that people who score higher on that dimension may have high levels of affection and dependence on their pets, which may be a good thing for their pets," Delgado said in the press release. He’d like to test that hunch — that certain personality types may be associated with better pet care — in follow-up studies.

Cat people, incidentally, were the most likely to show signs of anxious attachment — that is, neediness or clinginess — which, if Delgado’s theory is right, is a very good thing for the cat, though it does not do much to dispel the stereotype of the crazy cat person.