In fact, a study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science appears to debunk the idea of the “crazy cat lady” altogether, not only because dog-owners are similarly empathetic to the sounds of their distressed pets, but also because cat owners show no signs of being more anxious, emotional or depressed than their doggie-doting counterparts.
Researchers at UCLA initially hypothesized that cat owners would be more emotional, or suffer from more anxiety and depression, than other groups they observed, including dog owners and folks with no pets at all. Upon examining the results from the study’s 511 participants (264 owned pets, 297 did not), their hypothesis didn’t hold up.
“We found no differences between cat owners and the other participants on any of the self-reported measures of anxiety, depression or experiences in relationships,” the study explains.
The pet owners, overall, did appear to empathize more with their dogs and cats upon hearing the animals’ meows and whimpers, as they rated the sounds “sadder” than the group who didn’t already own pets.
Interestingly enough, the sounds of a whimpering dog were rated “significantly sadder” than the meows of cats.
“We found no evidence to support the ‘cat lady’ stereotype,” wrote the study’s authors, who traced the trope as far back as 1872, when The New York Times published an editorial called “Cats and Craziness.”
“Cat owners did not differ from others on self-reported symptoms of depression, anxiety or their experiences in close relationships.“