Scientists often cite the fact that humans are separate from animals because of our individual personalities. However, recent research has demonstrated that cats have measurable individual personalities, which suggests we may not be too different from our feline friends, after all.
Scientists have developed measures to determine the personalities of cats. In 1986 a group of scientists led by Sir Patrick Bateson and colleagues rated cats using several behavioral characteristics such as agility, curiosity, aggressiveness, fearful of cats, fearful of people, hostility, playfulness, and sociability. These characteristics were divided into three dimensions (social-unsociable, active-inactive and even or uneven temperament.) With these guidelines and a scoring scale they were able to confirm that cats do have personalities.
Here are a few things that they have found. As with humans, genetics play an important part in a cat’s personality, especially the father. A cat’s boldness, curiosity, interaction with other cats and people depend on the father’s attitude to these things. Male cats have no interest in kittens other than creating them, but their genetics play an important part in a new kitten’s life.
How a cat is nurtured is another aspect of a cat’s personality. Kittens that have been held and petted between 2 weeks to twelve weeks old will grow up more trusting and have human social personalities. Kittens that have not been handled until after 12 weeks, as a general rule are not sociable with anyone outside of their owners. These cats will generally possess uneven temperaments and display fear toward other humans, situations and other animals.
The length of time a kitten spends with its littermates and the size of the litter will determine a cat’s personality toward other cats. Removing a kitten from its littermates at seven to eight weeks creates a cat that is unsociable toward other cats. A large litter (4 or more) and leaving a kitten with the littermates and mother until the age of 12 weeks (along with handling) creates a more social cat and one who likes other cats. (A thought to keep in mind if you ever want a second cat.) Another interesting finding is that kittens need to be handled by more than one person when they are in the 2 to 12 week age group. A kitten with only one handler loves that person and fears all others.
This is just a birds-eye view into the personality of a cat, but it sheds a light on why some of our cats are they way they are especially in regard to the socialization process and a cat’s relationship to us.
All my cats have been cats that have found their way to our house and I have had no knowledge of their upbringing. Some have been super friendly and Boots, our favorite, was the orneriest and most scared cat you ever saw. We loved him for 18years and put up with him treating us like his most mortal enemies. Only on high holy days (his) would he allow us to touch him, but for some reason he had us in the palm of his paw and we went out of our way to cater to him until the very end.
is another discovery that plays a role in a cat’s personality. Most black cats for instance, possess the gene that allows them to adapt easily to most people and to city life. Cats with red, cream or tortoiseshell coats have been known to dislike being held by people they do not know. It has been suggested that the aggressiveness in orange colored male cats may be genetically linked to the color coat. It is possible that the genetic connection between coat color, genetics and personality might be caused by a biochemical process that selects for coat color and determines the level of the brain chemical dopamine, which plays a role in personality and behavior.