Cats: Scientists identify seven key personalities after studying thousands of felines

Family mistake vicious bobcats for domestic kittens

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Researchers from the University of Helsinki, Finland, have investigated more than 4,300 cats from 26 groups to figure out what makes kitties tick. And what may have just been the purrfect excuse to play with kitties during office hours, has produced some pretty astonishing results. According to the study’s findings, which were published in the journal Animals, kitties can be classified into one of seven distinct personality groups.

Salla Mikkola, a doctoral researcher at Helsinki and the Folkhälsan Research Center, said: “Compared to dogs, less is known about the behaviour and personality of cats, and there is demand for identifying related problems and risk factors.

“We need more understanding and tools to weed out problematic behaviour and improve cat welfare.

“The most common behavioural challenges with cats can relate to aggression and inappropriate elimination.”

The researchers collected data on cat behaviour through a lengthy survey that presented a research group with a set of 138 statements.

The group was then asked to what extent they agreed with statements such as, ‘often exhibits sudden bursts of running’ or ‘always greets unfamiliar adults visiting your home in a friendly manner’.

The survey also dug deep into the cats’ background information and health-related data to paint a complete picture of their characters.

The researchers opted for a survey, rather than face-to-face examinations, because cats tend to act differently when in a lab.

The survey also gave the cat owners an opportunity to discuss long-term changes in behaviour.

After studying the collected data, the researchers were able to list the following personality groups and behaviour traits are:

  • Playfulness/Activity
  • Fearfulness
  • Aggression towards humans
  • Sociability towards humans
  • Sociability towards cats
  • Litterbox issues
  • Excessive grooming

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The last two, Ms Mikkola noted, were not personality traits as such but are rather indicators of a cat’s sensitivity to stress.

She added: “While the number of traits identified in prior research varies, activity/playfulness, fearfulness and aggression are the ones from among the traits identified in our study which occur the most often in prior studies.”

Unsurprisingly, the researchers were able to spot clear differences in character between different breeds of cat.

The Russian Blue, for instance, was found to be the most fearful breed, as opposed to the least fearful Abyssinian.

Professor Hannes Lohi said: “The Bengal was the most active breed, while the Persian and Exotic were the most passive.

“The breeds exhibiting the most excessive grooming were the Siamese and Balinese, while the Turkish Van breed scored considerably higher in aggression towards humans and lower in sociability towards cats.

“We had already observed the same phenomenon in a prior study.”

However, the researchers stressed they have not carried out any pairwise comparisons between cat breeds at this stage.

Ms Mikkola said: “We wanted to obtain a rough idea of whether there are differences in personality traits between breeds.

“In further studies, we will utilise more complex models to examine factors that affect traits and problematic behaviour.

“In these models, we will take into consideration, in addition to its breed, the cat’s age, gender, health and a wide range of environmental factors.”

Professor Lohi added: “Internationally speaking, our study is the most extensive and significant survey so far, and it provides excellent opportunities for further research.

“The reliability of prior feline behavioural questionnaires has not been measured in such a versatile manner, nor are they as comprehensive as this one.

“Establishing reliability is key to making further analyses worthwhile and enabling the reliable identification of various risk factors.”

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