Why Your Pet Looks Like You (And Vice Versa)

A lot of attention has been given to the phenomenon of pet-alikes, or pets and owners who bear a resemblance to one another; there are many online galleries filled with such pictures. It’s not a new idea by any means, but with the advent of the Internet and social media, it’s a lot easier to see how it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what species your pet is, there will likely be a resemblance.

First, we need to distinguish that certain types of animals look like certain types of characters. Winston Churchill and a bulldog, for example. It’s a superficial resemblance between pictures of people and similar pictures of animals; it’s funny to be sure but it’s not the same as having a furry “Mini-Me” around the house.

Also, there are times when we consciously choose pets who remind us of ourselves. This can be especially important with kids who may feel different for one reason or another. Seeing something like themselves even within another species is a way to remind them that they’re not alone.

Pets live with us and depend on us, in turn they enrich our lives (and we hope we do the same for them). They look on us as part of their pack, or herd, or flock. Spend enough time with another person and you begin to mimic their expressions, their speech, their habits … all without consciously choosing to do so. If you know a long time married couple, you’ve probably noticed how they behave as a unit, complementing one another and creating a feedback loop of positive reinforcement. The thing is, we do this with our pets, too. It’s no coincidence that we refer to them as our “fur babies” or call ourselves “humom” – we really do feel that kinship bond. They’re our kids, too.

It doesn’t matter what breed they are, or what color fur or feathers or scales they have, resemblance is all around the eyes. A recent study in Japan of this strange reinforcement pattern discovered this link: volunteers were able to match pets and their owners just by looking at pictures of their eyes with great success. The study suggests that, as we think of our pets as an extension of ourselves, we look for a pet who will mirror us. That’s true of just about everyone’s pet… but in some cases, this resemblance is staggering!

And it’s not just the outward appearance that gets duplicated. Pets take their cues from you, too, especially (but not only) dogs. They really can sense your mood, and adjust themselves accordingly: if you’re excited, so are they; if you’re sad, they know it (and often try to comfort you). While they will develop their own distinct personality, just like with human bonds, bonds between close pets and owners will become in synch.

Pets do so much for us and don’t ask for nearly enough in return. They’re the kids that will never grow up even if they grow old, and they’re the friends who won’t let you down. In our race to find something like ourselves, maybe we should be a little more like them, too.