There’s just something about cats that
inspire command humans to bring them into their homes, or I should say, hand over their homes to them. Cats are peculiar creatures. I didn’t grow up with a cat and was a bonafide dog person for most of my life. It took my daughter several days of pleading to convince me to bring a stray kitten into our lives.
However, it didn’t take long to realize that in the hierarchical arrangement of the animal kingdom, felines are simply on a higher rung than their canine counterparts, and probably even their human owners. My cat certainly believes this to be true.
It also became obvious to me that cats have human-like personalities. Our tomcat and I are on the same frequency. We don’t like being told what to do, we rarely do what we’re told to do, we’re moody, we startle easily, we don’t like being touched too much or in unauthorized places, and we like our hair to be shiny and manageable. Cats are especially like women. It’s impossible not to notice. The charm of a woman or a cat casts a spell no mere mortal can conquer no matter how many times we bite you. Although I didn’t find a study to confirm this (I really didn’t need to), I did find a study that discussed something that is important in helping more cats find homes based upon their personality.
The importance of the study by Litchfield et al. (2017) was to determine how best to manage a cat’s environment to improve its welfare based upon the personality of the cat. For example, cats that score high on neuroticism are typically fearful, shy and suspicious. These cats would likely benefit from a quiet environment that offers places to hide. I could dig that too.
Fig 1. How human personality may be scored
Matching owners with the right cat increases the likelihood that the cat will remain out of a shelter and in a good home. Millions of cats are euthanized every year needlessly. Preventing this is obviously desirable.
People who live quiet lifestyles would likely do well with a cat that scored higher on the neurotic scale. Those people who demand or desire a lot of attention would likely do better with a more agreeable or more inquisitive cat. A cat that is more impulsive (erratic) would benefit from a less stressful environment while a cat that scores higher for, what the study referred to as extraversion (smart, curious) would benefit from an environment with higher stimulation.
The study pointed out that the most agreeable (friendly) cats are the most adoptable. This suggests that those cats that are more shy and fearful are more likely to remain in shelters longer or be euthanized. However, a shy and fearful cat may be the right match for some people and can make excellent pets in the right environment.
It’s all a bit like eHarmony.com.
Instead of deciding whether you like a cat based upon how it looks or even how friendly it appears, it’s more important to consider its personality and your own. You don’t want to make a long-term commitment with the wrong cat, only to wish you had shopped around more when you and your cat can’t agree on the same television program or political ideology night after night.
Litchfield CA, Quinton G, Tindle H, Chiera B, Kikillus KH, Roetman P (2017) The ‘Feline Five’: An exploration of personality in pet cats (Felis catus). PLoS ONE 12(8): e0183455. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0183455