Cats are individuals with different strengths, needs and much more. Their living conditions are also different. Therefore it is not surprising that their character is also unique. It is therefore difficult to make a generally valid statement about what the typical character of a cat is. However, the character of cats can be summarised in categories, as the results of a study now show.
The character of a cat: Which factors play a role?
The character of a cat is influenced by different factors and can vary considerably from cat to cat. On the one hand, breed and genes play a major role. But the development of personality traits is also influenced by other elements:
- The condition of the mother during pregnancy
- The mother’s behaviour in different life situations, towards conspecifics, other animals and people (kittens learn by observation and are therefore strongly influenced by the mother’s example, e.g. whether she behaves shyly, self-confidently, etc.).
- Various environmental stimuli and influences
- Various social contacts
- The physical condition
- Individual later life experiences
Which factors do not play a role?
It is often said that certain traits are related to fur colour and sex. However, these theories have not been scientifically proven. The results of the following study are different:
Based on the “Big Five”, which describe the five personality traits in humans that together determine individual character, a large-scale study was conducted in South Australia and New Zealand in 2017 to research personality in domestic cats. (Litchfield, C.A. et. al – 2017: The “Feline Five”).
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The “Big Five” of feline personality
This study used data from 2,802 cats of different breeds from Australia and New Zealand. Experienced cat owners with good observation skills were asked to describe the behaviour of their four-legged pets in certain situations.
They were asked to indicate on a scale of 1 to 7 how much their cats tended to behave in a certain way in these situations. For example, whether they seemed clumsy, behaved very carelessly or proved to be communicative.
The scientists filtered 48 characteristics out of the questionnaires and summarised five factors of cat personality on this basis:
- Neuroticism (restlessness/nervousness)
- Extraversion (sociability)
- Impulsiveness (spontaneity)
- Agreeableness (friendliness)
Results of the study
There was no significant difference between New Zealand and Australian cats, nor between males and females. However, a certain difference in character traits could be detected between younger and older animals. Younger cats seemed to be more sociable and less dominant than their older counterparts.
- If neuroticism is strong in the cat, it behaves nervously, shyly and anxiously. Animals in this group have a higher risk of accidents when they are outdoors. If it is weak, the cat is cool, trusting and self-confident.
- Cats with high scores in the extraversion factor are curious and active, while animals with low scores in this area seem rather aimless and indecisive.
- Cats with high scores in factor 3 (dominance) are pushy to aggressive towards other cats and tend to bully them. Free-rangers from this group have an increased risk of infectious diseases. Cats with low dominance values behave friendly and socially towards conspecifics and are well suited for keeping in a group.
- Animals with low scores in the impulsivity category appear predictable and controlled, are strongly attached to routines and are usually uncomplicated. Cats with high scores in this category are described as impulsive, distractible and moody. These traits can also have a negative effect on well-being and health.
- Factor 5, Agreeableness, was used to assess social behaviour towards people. Cats with high scores prove to be friendly and sociable, cooperative and trusting. They feel comfortable in their habitat and with their social partners. Animals with low scores are considered solitary and irritable to aggressive towards people. Since this behaviour can also occur due to pain and illness, a veterinary examination as well as a basic check of the general housing conditions is always recommended here.
Based on these categories, the characters can be roughly classified. Of course, there are also animals that overlap in some groups or that react differently in certain situations, for example due to negative experiences, than their “typical” character would suggest.
It is best to observe your pet to get to know him as well as possible and to know in which situations he behaves how. This way you can avoid unpleasant situations and support your pet in the best possible way when he needs help.
The character of a cat is influenced by different factors, so the traits are very different. What can be clearly said is that there is no such thing as “the typical cat character”. Rather, the character of cats can be summarised in categories. If you observe the behaviour and personality of your cat, you will quickly notice whether it is doing well and can seek advice and help in time for the well-being of your darling.