Investigation of humans individual differences as predictors of their animal interaction styles, focused on the domestic cat

Lauren R Finka*, Lucia Ripari, Lindsey Quinlan, Camilla Haywood, Jo Puzzo, Amelia Jordan, Jaclyn Tsui, Rachel Foreman-Worsley, Laura Dixon, Marnie L Brennan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Humans' individual differences including their demographics, personality, attitudes and experiences are often associated with important outcomes for the animals they interact with. This is pertinent to companion animals such as cats and dogs, given their social and emotional importance to humans and degree of integration into human society. However, the mechanistic underpinnings and causal relationships that characterise links between human individual differences and companion animal behaviour and wellbeing are not well understood. In this exploratory investigation, we firstly quantified the underlying structure of, and variation in, human's styles of behaviour during typical human-cat interactions (HCI), focusing on aspects of handling and interaction known to be preferred by cats (i.e. 'best practice'), and their variation. We then explored the potential significance of various human individual differences as predictors of these HCI styles. Seven separate HCI styles were identified via Principal Component Analysis (PCA) from averaged observations for 119 participants, interacting with sociable domestic cats within a rehoming context. Using General Linear Models (GLMs) and an Information Theoretic (IT) approach, we found these HCI PC components were weakly to strongly predicted by factors including cat-ownership history, participant personality (measured via the Big Five Inventory, or BFI), age, work experience with animals and participants' subjective ratings of their cat behaviour knowledge. Paradoxically, greater cat ownership experiences and self-assessed cat knowledge were not positively associated with 'best practice' styles of HCI, but were instead generally predictive of HCI styles known to be less preferred by cats, as was greater participant age and Neuroticism. These findings have important implications regarding the quality of human-companion animal relationships and dyadic compatibility, in addition to the role of educational interventions and their targeting for optimal efficacy. In the context of animal adoption, these results strengthen the (limited) evidence base for decision making associated with cat-adopter screening and matching. In particular, our results suggest that greater cat ownership experiences and self-reports of cat knowledge might not necessarily convey advantages for cats in the context of HCI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12128
JournalScientific Reports
Volume12
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jul 2022
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 15 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022. The Author(s).

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