Probing the Feline Psyche

MY16_Feline_FHave you ever done one of those personality tests – you know the ones here they ask you lots of seemingly meaningless questions and then conclude that you’re an extrovert adventurer, introvert workaholic, or a social daydreamer.  A pointless exercise?

But when you find out what category your friends, family or work mates are in, it starts to make sense. Suddenly you understand their reactions to certain situations and you can approach them in different ways to get positive outcomes. 

So now, believe it or not, researchers in NZ & Australia have done the same with cats. They have found five categories, which mostly mirror human ones, by administering personality tests to  2,800 domestic cats. The tests were completed by the felines’ owners, who ranked their pets on a scale of 1 to 7 for each of 52 behaviours and traits.

The main traits in cats are

  1. Skittishness — Akin to neuroticism in people. Cats that earned high skittishness scores are more anxious and fearful; calm and trusting cats had low scores.
  2. Outgoingness — Equivalent to extroversion in humans. Highly outgoing cats are curious and active; those with low scores are aimless and “quitting,” according to the test
  3. Dominance — Cats that are bullying and aggressive had high scores; cats that are friendly and submissive to other felines scored low.
  4. Spontaneity — High scores indicate impulsive, erratic cats; low scores went to predictable, constrained cats.
  5. Friendliness — Like agreeableness in people. Highly friendly cats were affectionate, while those with low scores are solitary and irritable.

And so how does this help us understand cats.  – well for example , if you have a skittish nervous cat it will need places to hide and probably won’t get on well with a dominant or spontaneous/erratic cat.  Cats with low spontaneity scores may need a fixed routine. How would you rate your cat?

I guess anything that helps us understand the feline species is helpful – although I think they will always remain a bit of an enigma

Angela J Ford


F_R_OtakiVetOtaki Veterinary Centre

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Angela Ford BVM&S MRCVS MACVSc Emma & Jen — Veterinary nurses

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