Personality of Domestic Cats

“Jasmine” by H. Schofield. (CC by 4.0)

Every cat lover knows that each kitty is special and full of personality. Feline behaviors vary depending on the owner and the presence of other animals in the household. Although we may have loved cats since they ruled in Egypt with the Pharaohs, we as a society have not taken a serious look into the factors and behaviors that create the varying personalities we see in cats, both small domestics and their larger wild counterparts.

Recent research into the underlying individual personality traits of domestic cats has shed light onto interesting behaviors. This information can aide cat owners and handlers in understanding how to create happy and healthy living environments  for feline companions based upon their personality. A study by Carla Litchfield and her colleagues investigated the “Feline Five” personality traits, similar to the “Big Five” personality traits in humans.  The personality categories for non-human mammals have been categorized as neuroticism, extraversion, dominance, impulsiveness and agreeableness. All of these are linked to specific behaviors that can explain personality and communicate information about the cat to the owner.

Litchfield and her team did an intensive study using questionnaires for 2,802 cats [4] in Australia. The goal of the study was to determine the amount of reliable factors that could demonstrate personality in domestic cats and to classify them into traits. The study found that neurotic cats tended to display insecure, anxious, fearful, and shy behaviors whereas agreeable cats were more affectionate, gentle, and friendly towards people. The impulsive kitties showed erratic and reckless behaviors and dominant cats were found to be aggressive bullies. An interesting observation in the study was that high scores in extroversion were linked to self-control similar to the Scottish wildcats, and these cats also tended to be active, curious, and inventive in their typical behaviors.

This information is helpful for anyone with cats because this understanding of feline personality traits, one is better able to care for and maintain a nurturing and happy life for their fur babies. If a cat scores significantly high or low in any category, there may be an underlying stressor which diminishes quality of life. Extremely neurotic cats may suffer from additional anxieties that lead to skittishness, if recognizes the problem can be addressed and the cat’s anxieties alleviated. Low scores in agreeableness which are seen in aggressive behaviors can indicate a lack of socialization, neglect/abuse, frustration/irritation, or it is acting out from a prolonged pain or sickness [4]. These signs are important to listen to as a cat owner because it helps to maintain a satisfying life for pet.

“cat” by Chris (CC BY-SA 2.0)


References:

[1] “Big Five Personality Traits.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits.

[2] Chris. “Cat.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 22 Feb. 2010, www.flickr.com/photos/xcxsxvx/4377571151/in/photolist-7EQcoF-89doan-ehMkDv-ZsPUTG-8pWM6P-8LzBGk-dTvhwH-5Z9rgN-ajvTTn-Y8Vqyt-5NXwzp-drSZn2-71Mq9F-9SZgp4-aFPp92-8h6NoK-72emSG-XoixAV-6M7V5s-ZL6d2X-dZzmtF-9r7Phn-CpwzsU-eEskBV-px999e-W9SQVD-nRbtxb-aq265o-6RTTiD-4q1D11-FsvcBb-6Vrnsx-3zUzT4-W9SQdX-6FCD2w-3F7Tr-W9SRje-scHLRD-jLV2vW-4wDqX1-njSH5S-7kvJve-GnV46k-Yur51c-9FjVn4-Z7NEYu-CE4RS1-9hoYWU-XoitQt-eeDEdJ.

[3] Hill, Jenny. “Cats in Ancient Egypt.” Ancient Egypt Online, 2008, www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/cat.html.

[4] Litchfield, Carla A., et al. “The ‘Feline Five’: An Exploration of Personality in Pet Cats (Felis catus).” Plos One, vol. 12, no. 8, 2017, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0183455.

[5] “Neuroticism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroticism.

[6] “Scottish Wildcat.” Wikipedia, 17 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_wildcat.

6 thoughts on “Personality of Domestic Cats

    • admin says:

      I have not looked into the treatment of anxiety in cats but the article did suggest that anxious cats can be shy and providing more hiding places for them can help to calm them down and make them feel safer.

  1. Karen Cangialosi says:

    Very interesting! But it would be really nice to know if there is any evolutionary context or connections for these cat “personalities”? That is, what selective pressures or other evolutionary forces could have led to such individual differences if any? Can all of this be explained by current environment alone?

  2. Marisa says:

    I think its really interesting that there is a “feline five” that is similar to The Big Five in humans! Being an owner of two cats, both of them have opposite personalities. Like you mentioned above, one of my cats shows neurotic behavior and the other is very agreeable and loves attention. When you visited the Carolina Tiger Rescue did you notice any similar behaviors regarding the exotic cats compared to domestic cats?

    • admin says:

      During my stay at the Carolina Tiger Rescue I was able to observe many of the speices that they have rescued. Even among just the tigers there were differences in the activity levels, aggression, and friendliness towards each other and the humans caring for them. Even just within the Trio, Carolina is more agreeable than India, whereas Caprichio is extroverterted and always is where the people are. Anthony leopard was only really active when he saw or heard the food truck. Elvis serval was a curious wonder, always sitting at the edge of his enclosure watching us as we drove by on the gators. However, other servals preferred hiding and occassionally hissing at us as we passed by. Some other cats would have scored very high on the aggression spectrum and are not on the tour path. For example, Max the tiger, does not like humans and remained crouched down, ears back, stalking us as we drove past his enclosure. Since they are wild animals, even the ones on the tour path can be aggressive. Star the cougar hissed at us on our first day and was not pleased by out presence. Sheba, the lionness, pounced at the fence where I was mulching in the Memorial Garden, had the fence not been there, I would have been a snack. She only did that once and continued to watch us as we worked for the rest of the time we were there. I suspect she was asserting dominace or maybe I admired her for too long. Either way, each cat was very unique and large and wild cats definitely have their own personalities.

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