Think You Share a Personality With Your Pet?

A new British study says you and your dog may share a sense of humor.

January 14, 2009, 10:58 AM

LONDON, Oct. 31, 2007 — -- Queen Elizabeth and her beloved corgis, all five of them; Winston Churchill and his World War II companion Rufus the poodle; and Paris Hilton, rarely seen without her tiny teacup Chihuahua. We love our pets. And just like married couples, over time many of us start looking like them.

But can our four-legged friends and other pets share other traits as well? A new British study, the first of its kind, finds that the longer an animal has been with its owner the more likely the animal is to pick up the owner's characteristics. As part of the study, which continues for the next six months, pet lovers are asked to fill out a survey online describing what they are like and their pets' traits.

So far 2,500 pet lovers have responded to the study's author, professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. Although it's still a work in progress, Wiseman said he has already drawn some deductions from the data.

"What we've seen across the board, whether it's cat owners or dog owners, is amazing personalities between those two," Wiseman told ABC News. "So if you have someone [who] has a good sense of humor, they are claiming their animal also has that sense of humor. Someone who is outgoing has extrovert cat or dog. So a lot of similarity between owners and their pets.''

So, what kind of conclusions can the professor make so far?

"When you look at the data, you see that dog owners are spontaneous and fun loving, cat owners tend to be emotionally sensitive and independent and reptile owners don't care too much for other people. They are very much independently minded.''

Can animals really have humanlike characteristics? According to Wiseman they absolutely can.

"They're surrounded by their animals, they devote their lives to them. Well maybe they're having a big impact on the way they think and behave," he said.

Wiseman says what we might be looking at is perceived personality.

"It could be that some cats are not as fun loving as dogs. Dogs are more playful. It could be that dogs are not as independent as cats — here might be some truth to it," he said "The other possibility is we're looking at random behavior and we're reading meaning into it. We're seeing human traits that are simply not there."

One of the most surprising results came from fish owners.

"About 60 percent of fish owners claim that their fish have a very good sense of humor."

Fish are funny?

Wiseman said, "Apparently fish are hilarious. If you spend time with fish, the greatest percentage of owners who had a great sense of humor are people who had fish."

But fish swim in a tank and that's about it, right?

"The fish owners are the happiest, they are the most content in our sample and they are the ones claiming their pets make them laugh the most," Wiseman said. "It could be that fish don't have a sense of humor, or maybe we are onto a groundbreaking discovery here."

Just like married couples, some say that after a while owners and their pets start looking very similar.

"Psychological studies have shown that married couples by the end of the relationship, when they're 30 years into it, that they are far more alike in terms of personality than when they started out," Wiseman said. "And our data mirrored that, so people who have been with their pet for 10 years or more had a very very similar personality and that's kind of curious."

So maybe we should be careful when choosing our pets.

"I suspect it is a little bit like the way in which we choose potential partners in real life, we don't really think about it too much. There's something there that either clicks or it doesn't. I suspect that exactly the same in the pet store," he said. "There will be some considerations in terms of lifestyle and so on but when it comes to deciding between this puppy and this puppy. I suspect it's just intuitive but you could be picking up on something about its behavior that mirrors your own, that really appeals to you."

Fun-loving dogs? Emotionally sensitive cats? Funny fish? We checked into a pet store to investigate.

One dog owner who spoke with ABC News compared her Great Dane Moses to her husband, Luke.

"Moses, he is quite dopey and he's got big feet. He's clumsy and he's loving and caring as well," she said. "And Luke is like that. But he's fun and he's loving. Moses is caring and protecting and is exactly like Luke."

One cat owner described what his furry feline is like. He said, "The cat's very lazy; it comes in, eats, sits around all day. Sits at the door to go out, you let it out, it comes back in again."

His daughters said their dad also sometimes acts like that.

And another dog owner who spoke to ABC News said she and her pet are very similar.

"I am usually a happy person but I can get a bit moody, just like her," she said. "She is a bit moody sometimes, and I think we reflect each other in our moods. She's normally smiling, as you can see here, and I'm normally smiling. But catch me on a bad day and I'm a bit moody."

She also claims to have conversations with her dog. "She woo-woos, she makes a woo-wooing sound, which is really strange. … Yeah, she woo-woos back, but she usually starts it. It's usually when I get home, it's her sort of greeting."

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