Stereotypes about cats and their personalities abound—calicos are feisty, orange tabbies are laid back. The Cat Fanciers’ Association has even put together a Breed Personality Chart. The problem with stereotypes is that when looking at an individual, they tend to be wrong as often as they are right.
Enter science. Research into cat personality types seems to be the topic du jour. The Daily Mail reports that a study involving “interviews” of more than 200 cats and their owners, run by Dr. Lauren Finka of the University of Lincoln in England, reveals that cats have only five personality types. These personalities develop due to “a complex interaction between each cat's genetics and their experiences during development and in adulthood,” the article states. To quote:
- The Human Cat is generally happy to share your home, your life and often your personal space.
- The Hunter Cat is the most feral of the personalities, regularly interacting with realistic cat toys and showing signs of an expert hunter.
- You can identify a Cat's Cat through its willingness to play with and groom its furry siblings, touching noses and rubbing up against each other.
- The Cantankerous Cat is more easily frustrated than his four counterparts and can be less tolerant to being handled, due to being quite sensitive to touch, their environment and being on high alert.
- The Inquisitive Cat can be a keen investigator, sniffing around anything and anyone unfamiliar.
Scientists at the University of South Australia took a different approach and used a questionnaire that included 52 personality characteristics. They analyzed 2,802 cats and identified “a set of five major personality factors.” According to their 2017 report, Cat Tracker South Australia: Understanding Pet Cats Through Citizen Science, the “Feline Five” traits are skittishness, outgoingness, dominance, spontaneity, and friendliness.
Cat owners who completed the personality test questions within the survey received a “cat personality report.” These reports “outlined their cat’s personality profile and provided some guidance on how this information could be used to make decisions about cat management.” This is what their general suggestions looked like:
- Cats with high scores may benefit from having hiding spots at home. You could also consider whether there could be something in your cat’s environment that is stressing your cat.
- Low scores may reflect that your cat is well adjusted to its environment.
- Cats with high scores may benefit from additional toys and playtime.
- Cats with low scores are uncommon, but may be showing signs of aging or related health issues.
- Cats with high scores may experience difficulties being around other cats, both in your home and in your neighborhood.
- Cats with low scores may adjust well to being in multi-cat households.
- For cats with high scores, consider whether your cat could be reacting to something stressful in its environment.
- Cats with low scores may reflect that they are well adjusted to their environment and may enjoy routine.
- Cats with high scores may adjust well to other people and animals in the home.
- Cats with low scores may have a solitary nature or they may be poorly socialized. If unfriendly behavior is unusual for your cat, it may indicate frustration, pain, or illness.
The Cat Tracker team in the United States has since launched its own version of the personality survey. Scientists at North Carolina State University are using the responses to “learn more about cats, their behaviors and personalities, and their relationships with their owners.”