For the new cycle, I’m continuing on with my question “Why do cats behave the way they do?”. I’ve already looked at their basic anatomy, their predatory behaviour, and how they communicate. For this round, I will be looking into personalities in cats.
The Feline Five
-Scientists from the University of South Australia determined the five major personality factors of cats through a questionnaire in which 2,802 participants from South Australia and New Zealand took part by rating their pet's personality with 52 personality traits. According to their report in 2017, they came to the conclusion that there are five personality types in cats, called the “Feline Five”. These traits are:
1. Skittishness (Neuroticism in humans)
2. Outgoingness (Extraversion in humans)
3. Dominance (In cats only)
4. Spontaneity (In cats only)
5. Friendliness (Agreeableness in humans)
(1, 2, 3, 4, 13)
-Cats with high scores of skittishness are more anxious and fearful, and will typically dart away from strangers rather than face a situation they aren’t familiar with. That’s why it’s important to give these cats lots of places to hide in your home, such as cardboard boxes. (2, 3, 4)
-Cats with high scores of outgoingness are very curious and active and love exploring, and they often get themselves into trouble by going where they shouldn’t. If these cats get bored, this can result in destructive behaviour, such as scratching the furniture. They need mental situation, so providing them with plenty of toys is a good idea. (2, 3, 4)
-Cats with high scores of dominance are like “bullies” to other cats. Being less tolerant of others and hogging resources such as food and litter boxes, they do not do well with other cats. If this is the case, provide more resources throughout the house, and playing with these cats regularly can help take the edge off of its energy levels. (2, 3, 4)
-Cats with high scores of spontaneity are impulsive and erratic. These cats may react differently to the same situation on different occasions. This is often because the cat hasn’t learned how to cope with life yet and will typically run away when faced with uncertainty. You should never shout at a spontaneous cat as it will only raise its anxiety levels and make it more erratic. It’s helpful to have set routines, like feeding time or playtime, so the cat knows what to expect next, and will behave more appropriately. (2, 3, 4)
-Cats with high scores of friendliness are (believe it or not!) very friendly and affectionate, and can adjust well to other people and cats. (2, 3, 4)
Personality in breeds
-In addition to looks, purebred cats tend to have fairly consistent personality traits. This is contrary to domestic cats (often called mixed breeds) whose traits and characteristics can be difficult to predict. This is because domestic cats (which is the most common type of pet cat) are not selectively bred by choosing and mating a female and male that have specific, desirable traits, producing kittens with very predictable traits. (5, 7)
A few examples of purebred cats and their personalities are:
-Abyssinian – Lively, busy, active and affectionate. (6, 7)
-Ragdoll – Relaxed, docile, quiet, affectionate. (6, 7)
-Siamese – Vocal, affectionate, active, insistent. (6, 7)
Personality differences in male and female cats
While it’s true that there are some behavioural and personality differences in male and female cats, these major differences no longer exist after they are spayed or neutered, as their hormones are taken away and their behaviour is no longer sexually driven (8, 9, 10, 11).
Male cats who are not yet neutered tend to be restless and roam around a lot in search of a mate. They will be more aggressive towards others, and may spray urine to mark their territory (8, 10, 11).
Female cats who are not yet spayed will go into heat to search for a male cat. Therefore, they may endlessly yowl and cry, roll on the floor and seek attention. If they have kittens, they may be extremely protective and aggressive (8, 9, 10).
Once a male cat is neutered, their aggression diminishes and they become much friendlier. A spayed female will no longer go into heat; therefore, the associated behaviours will diminish as well. Because neutering and spaying seems to reduce behaviours specific to each gender, there shouldn’t be a personality difference between male and female cats. The personality is then based not on sex, but rather on the individual cat and its environment that it is raised in (8, 9, 10).
Personality differences between house cats and feral cats
-As I just mentioned, the environment a cat is raised in does matter. A cat born in the wild, a feral cat, is not socialized as a house cat or a stray cat is. Before I continue however, let me tell you that a stray cat is different from a feral cat. A feral cat is born outdoors, whereas a stray cat had a home, but they “strayed” outside. (12, 14)
-A socialized cat is a cat who is friendly towards people because they had human interaction from a young age (12). Therefore, a feral kitten is still capable of being socialized, but a feral cat that has been living outdoors for too long will grow up apprehensive of people and not do well in a home (12, 14).
-In personality and behaviour, feral cats are very different from stray and pet cats because they do not approach people, they are unlikely to make eye contact and do not meow, beg or purr, and are more likely to be nocturnal (12).
This research has really helped unravel a lot about my cat, Callie. Unfortunately, the survey about the “Feline Five” is currently only available in Australia and New Zealand, so I cannot take it. But if I had to decide what traits Callie has high levels of, I would say it is skittishness, outgoingness, and a bit of spontaneity.
I also learned that when a cat is spayed or neutered, there isn’t really much of a difference between personality in sexes. I always wondered this, because my female cat is quite a bit more playful and rambunctious than my old male cat, Benny, but I know now that each cat (unless purebred or intact) has their own completely unique personality.
That’s all for this week! In a couple weeks from now, I will be researching common illnesses in cats and how their behaviour will change when they are ill, as well as when they are feeling stressed out. Any ideas, comments or websites are greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!