Do Dogs & Cats Take on Their Owner’s Personality?

dog on a leash at the park with their owner

Your pet doesn’t actually share your genetics, but if you selected your pet it’s possible your dog or cat is a lot like you.

Are you and your pet alike? This is one of those nature vs. nurture questions, with a twist. Your pet doesn't actually share your genetics, but if you selected your pet (rather than acquiring him through random circumstance) it's possible you consciously or subconsciously selected a dog or cat that's a lot like you. It's also possible, that no matter how you acquired your pet, the two of you have become more alike in personality over the years. You share some personality traits.

Take the case of Midnight, a mixed breed, who appeared to be the laziest of the litter – he napped as his littermates played. The mother and two children who adopted him had very different personalities, yet the dog took on both the shaggy looks and strong personality of the boy in the family. Maybe it was because they were the only males, or because the son was always troubled, and the dog sensed who needed him most. Both Midnight and his male owner where intelligent, defiant risk-takers. Both tended to seek out their own adventures. And both seemed to have an angel on their backs, as they each survived accidents that put their lives at risk.

Cats Use Personality Traits to Get What They Want

Then there were the cats, Magritte and Cassatt, two tabbies who were pretty much alike when adopted as kittens – both outgoing and playful. But as they grew, Cassatt took on the collective personality traits of the three young children in the house and apparently decided that to get the attention she wanted, she must become like and compete with them. She became exceedingly affectionate with the mother. (Magritte found this behavior appalling.) Whenever a child crawled in bed with Mom, Cassatt insisted on squeezing between mother and child. This cat also learned to make her meows sound like "Mom" which was a bit disturbing.

When the cats visited Grandma, Magritte must have seen his opening. He was always the more mature cat anyway, but in his new environment, he took on the personality traits of his new friend. Without the distraction of children, he could shine as the quiet, intelligent cat. This cat endeared himself to Grandma by trying to become just like her. He would sit at her computer as if he were working, go through her file drawer as if looking for a document, and sit by an open book as if trying to read it. Whatever she did, he wanted to do to. However, this cat's attempts to pick up a glass of iced tea always ended in a big mess.

What scientists say about pet personality traits

There are at least two scientists we know of who have researched owner and pet personalities. British Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire conducted an online survey of pet owners and found that both dog and cat owners shared such personality traits as happiness, intelligence, independence, and sense of humor with their pets.

Dr. Sam Gosling, who directs the Human and Animal Personality Lab at The University of Texas, applied scientific human personality testing on dogs. Like many scientists he assumed that personalities of animals were merely what people projected on them. What he found was that specific personality traits could accurately be identified in dogs. His hope is that his research can be used to better match shelter dogs with owners, and to help people select the best dogs to perform specific duties, such as working with police or helping the disabled.

You and your cat or dog are probably more alike than you're aware of. But ask someone who is close to you both and see if they notice your shared personality traits. You and your pet may just be two peas in a pod!