Do Narcissists Love Animals?🐕 🐈

One of the central traits of a narcissist is a lack of empathy. Narcissists can’t put themselves in someone else’s shoes or identify with another’s feelings.

It can be a lonely existence and may even stop them from developing a relationship with animals. 

When we own a pet or are responsible for an animal, we show empathy for that animal by responding to its feelings.

Which brings us to an intriguing question: Do narcissists have the capacity to love animals? Or does their inability to show empathy deny them that special bond? 

Do Narcissists Love Animals?🐕 🐈

By looking at recent studies and personal anecdotes, we’ll discover more about the relationship between narcissists and animals and see whether people with narcissistic tendencies can develop a genuine bond with an animal or if their lack of empathy leaves them cold.

Narcissism and Empathy Deficit

lack of empathy

Narcissists come in many forms, but they all share one common trait – a lack of empathy. 

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the narcissist is “unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.”

While that doesn’t mean narcissists have no empathy, they may not be as responsive to other people’s feelings as non-narcissists. 

Some studies suggest that narcissists may experience empathy but respond inappropriately, becoming aggressive or withdrawn because those feelings evoke a sense of shame or loss of internal control. 

Despite that, many narcissists who lack empathy for humans or respond to it inappropriately can show considerable compassion for their pets.  

A study exploring the relationship between narcissism and human and animal-related empathy found that just because an individual displays little compassion for others doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll treat animals the same way.

Of course, there’s always a risk that a narcissist will see their pet as an extension of themselves and use its presence to boost their ego and impress others.

But there’s also a possibility that owning an animal can have a beneficial effect and help “pet owners with vulnerable narcissistic traits regulate their emotions.”

On the other hand, a narcissist’s relationship with a pet could quickly become abusive.

If they subjected the animal to a cycle of idealization, devaluation, and rejection, it could have a detrimental effect on that animal and certainly wouldn’t indicate either love or empathy. 

Narcissists and Pets

Narcissists and Pets

Do narcissists like animals? Narcissists are complicated people, but they are individuals. Some might like certain types of animals.

For instance, a grandiose narcissist will look for something big or dangerous, like a Burmese Python, to make themselves look good.

A more vulnerable narcissist might seek the comfort of a more traditional pet, like a dog, which shows unwavering love and affection. 

Do Narcissists Have Pets?

When it comes to narcissists and pets, there are several reasons a narcissist might be drawn to owning a pet.

Still, many of those motivations are entirely self-serving and do not benefit the animal as much as the narcissist. 

#1 Ego Boost

A narcissist’s ego needs continual stroking, and a pet, especially a dog, can provide the unconditional love and attention they so desperately crave.

Dogs are particularly beneficial as they make their owners feel indispensable because they’re so utterly reliant on them.

#2 Narcissistic Supply

In addition to boosting the ego, a pet can provide a narcissistic supply of attention, admiration, and validation. A narcissist may also use their pet to gain the admiration of others.

For instance, a narcissist will take great pleasure from a dog that obediently follows them everywhere as it suggests that the dog loves them more than anyone else. 

#3 Control and Dominance

A pet gives the narcissist a focus for their controlling behavior. They can exercise authority, create and enforce rules, and punish the animal when it fails to obey.

This satisfies the narcissist’s need for power and reinforces their sense of superiority. Unfortunately, their punishment could be extreme and potentially abusive.

#4 Improved Image

Pet owners are often believed to have more nurturing and caring personalities, and the narcissist may use a pet to manipulate people’s impressions of them.

Owning a pet may help them convince others that they’re compassionate people with warm hearts and a sense of responsibility.

Projecting such an image helps to deflect attention away from their negative traits and boost their public image.    

In many instances, a narcissist will see their pet as an extension of their own ego. They will often opt for an unusual breed or a particularly large or powerful one, as that reflects their own inflated egos.

Do Narcissists Like Dogs Over Cats?

So, do narcissists like cats? As a rule, narcissists prefer dogs to cats. Cats are far too superior and independent for narcissists, and their tendency to ignore humans could trigger a narcissistic injury.  

If you watch a narcissist interact with an animal, you’ll better understand what’s happening in the relationship.

If they only show the animal attention when other people are watching, chances are they only perceive that animal as an extension of themselves. 

A narcissist is more concerned with their pet’s well-being than anyone else around them and could be displaying a different personality disorder. 

Studies show that those experiencing vulnerable narcissism may withdraw from interactions with other humans but benefit from having a pet that can “fulfill their social needs, reduce loneliness, and enhance social support.”

Strictly speaking, that’s not love, but it is a strong bond that indicates a certain level of empathy. 

How do Narcissists Treat their Pets?

How do Narcissists Treat their Pets

Over the years, I’ve seen some frightening examples of how narcissists treat their pets and some heart-warming ones. 

One client described how her narcissistic ex would demand her cat’s attention whenever he called by and become offended if it tried to avoid him. 

One day, he saw she’d bought the cat some expensive treats from an exclusive online store, and he flew into a rage.

Maybe he saw it as a rejection of himself or as a sign that she was trying to bribe the cat into showing her more affection than it led him – who knows? 

After he stormed out of the house, she found the cat cowering in a cupboard, showing signs of severe trauma.

She could only assume that her ex had lashed out, striking the cat and causing severe injury. The vet confirmed her suspicions but couldn’t save the cat. 

Of course, this is only one example of how narcissists treat their pets. Some can be extremely loving and even use their interactions with animals to improve their ability to interact with people. 

Sadly, that’s not always the case, and some narcissists may neglect their animals, resenting the time and attention they take away from themselves. 

Narcissists may also allow or encourage unwanted and potentially dangerous behavior in their pets. They may get upset if you don’t fuss about their furry companion or blame you if the dog gets over-excited and nips at you. 

Do Narcissists Make Good Pet Owners?

Although limited research is available on the emotional well-being and health of pets owned by narcissists, we can use our understanding of narcissistic behavior to speculate on its potential effects on pets. 

Narcissists prioritize their needs over all others, which could result in neglectful behavior, such as leaving an animal out in bad weather, failing to clean up after it, or being unresponsive to it when it wants to play.

They may also struggle to provide a stable environment due to their unpredictable behavior and tendency to lurch from idealization to devaluation. 

Narcissists may also have unrealistic expectations of their pet’s behavior, expecting it to be perfect without putting in the time and training necessary to achieve such goals. In this way, they could set the animal up for failure. 

If a dog’s never been house-trained, it won’t know that it’s wrong to pee inside, but a narcissist may have a hard time understanding that and fly off the handle when the dog gets it wrong. 

While a non-narcissist is liable to see animals as independent beings with their own needs and emotions, narcissists may struggle to develop such connections because they’re too focused on their own desires. 

As a result, a narcissist may see their pet as a prop to enhance their image or manipulate others’ emotions rather than a valued companion.

They may struggle to see their relationship with an animal as mutually beneficial and concern themselves only with what the pet can do for them.  

Do Narcissists Love Their Pets?

Do Narcissists Love Their Pets

Although some narcissists only love themselves, others can form genuine relationships with pets and other animals. 

People suffering from vulnerable narcissism, or Narcissistic Neuroticism, struggle to show empathy for humans, mainly because of their insecurities but can bond with a pet.

They fear rejection so intensely that they often withdraw from interpersonal relationships, turning to their pets for support. 

Narcissists who struggle with these problems may benefit from owning an animal because it provides non-judgmental support and helps them regulate their negative emotions and control their insecurities.

How does that compare to the bond a non-narcissist has with their pet? Well, it’s not that different. 

I was reading an article about the bonds we develop with our pets. It suggested that everyone, including non-narcissists, gets validation from their animals because they depend on us. 

This also means their love is unconditional and “less susceptible to being lost than the love of other human beings.”

Why do Narcissists have Pets?

For the average pet owner, merely looking at their cat or dog stimulates the production of oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” making us feel warm and fuzzy. 

Interacting with an animal also elevates our dopamine and serotonin levels, making us feel happy and content. 

Scientifically speaking, it’s those chemical reactions that make us love animals. We love animals because they validate us, give us attention, and make us feel good. 

From that perspective, it makes sense that a narcissist could equally love a pet for those same reasons. After all, a narcissist thrives on validation and attention, no matter where it comes from. 

Sadly, to a narcissist, ‘love’ is the kick they get out of securing the adoration, attention, and control they need. They think only of themselves and what they can get from others, so their ‘love’ will be entirely about how they feel and never about the pet. 

Narcissists can be great pet owners but can equally easily discard an animal they seem to have bonded with. If a pet no longer serves its purpose, it will be thrown away and potentially replaced with something better. 

Some Final Thoughts 

Narcissist with all his cats

While it’s difficult for a narcissist to love their pet, depending on the individual’s specific narcissistic traits, it is possible.

Vulnerable narcissists tend to be withdrawn and isolated but have enough animal-related empathy to develop a deep, close bond with a pet. 

Those with more grandiose narcissist traits are more likely to use an animal to boost their ego and improve their status. They are less likely to feel empathy or love towards a pet and more likely to neglect or abuse it. 

These are rather sweeping statements, and each situation is slightly different.

Still, I hope these insights will help you, especially if you’re living with a narcissist and thinking about getting an animal.  

We have only scratched the surface of this topic, and more research is needed to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between narcissists and animals and if animal-assisted therapy might benefit those with narcissistic personality disorder.

Photo of author

Alexander Burgemeester

Alexander Burgemeester has a Master in Neuropsychology. He studied at the University of Amsterdam and has a bachelor's in Clinical Psychology. Want to know more?

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