We all know that the domestic cat came from a wild ancestor cat.
But are personality traits of kittens like friendliness or aloofness passed on by the parents? Or does human touch and care influence a cat’s personality?
Writer Tia Ghose, author of 6 Secrets to Unlocking Your Cat’s Personality, says “most of what makes a cat socialized is his early experience with humans.”
Researches on cats
Ghose cites studies with interesting findings. The first study was done by Temple University researcher Eileen Karsh and her colleagues in the 1980s.
1. Cats handled by humans between three (3) weeks and seven (7) weeks of age tend to be friendly and social.
2. Felines who make it past seven (7) weeks old without any human touch become skittish kitties who hide under the bed when guests come over.
The second study in 1995 was detailed in Applied Animal Behavior Science. The research team produced two litters of kittens: one was sired by an aloof tomcat and the other was sired by a friendly and social male.
1. The tomcat has a strong influence on the personality of the kittens he sired.
2. At one (1) year old, the friendliest cats were those handled by humans as kittens and sired by the friendly male cats.
3. The least friendly cats were sired by aloof tomcats and were left on their own.
Ghose says another research came out with the following findings:
1. A friendly mother tends to raise friendly kittens.
2. It is not certain however if the genes had a hand in this or the kittens became friendly due to imitation while the mothers were raising their kittens.
Traits of different kinds of cats
Ghose enumerates what most people say about some cats:
1. Persians are more aloof
2. Siamese cats are like dogs
3. Maine Coons are friendly but can not be lap cats
Ghose says some of these tales may be true but these are still mere observations. She prefers to look at studies done.
In an in-depth study of cat personality described in “Companion animals and us: exploring the relationships between people and pets,” (Cambridge University Press, 2000), Ghose says the caretakers described the different kinds of cats under their watch:
1. Persians were friendlier and more affectionate to the owner, but were fussy about food and cleanliness.
2. Siamese cats were more affectionate, playful, curious, friendly to strangers than non-pedigreed cats.
Another study published in 2012 in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior showed the following findings:
1. The hairless sphinx—despite their sinister appearance—may be the most affectionate cat. This may be due to the cat’s need for more human snuggling to keep them warm because they have no fur.
2. The mixed breeds, also called domestic shorthairs, were the least friendly cats.
But it was noted that purebred cats may be friendlier on average only because they get to spend more time with their mothers, thus they learned to socialize, Ghose says.
Mixed breeds, on the other hand, are those picked up on the street after weeks of having had to fend for themselves.
My own take based on rescue efforts of Save Animals of Love and Light (Save ALL) is that mixed breeds learned to be defensive and to be cautious when dealing with humans after a life on the streets where they could have been hurt by humans or had to fight for food with other cats, mostly older ones. All rescues are afraid at first. But in time, through love and care, the mixed breeds or our very own Pusang Pinoy (puspins) learn to trust caregivers and end up the sweetest furbabies in town.
A lot of factors come into play based on the studies and our own experiences. As Ghose notes: “Either way, for most breeds, there’s little data to back up proud owner claims that their Snookums is friendlier, smarter or better at using a flush toilet because of its pedigree.”
Mixing them with other cats and dogs
Cat lovers know that cats are independent animals. Thus, it can be such a challenge to introduce new cats in a single-cat household.
But if a cat was raised with other kittens from birth, they become playmates and friends for a lifetime.
“Cats introduced to other animals between ages 3 weeks to 7 weeks may also become best buddies with animals that would otherwise be enemies or even prey in the wild. Cats and dogs often coexist in harmony, and felines and birds or hamsters have even been known to be friends. Still, it’s probably not a good idea to leave a cat and its natural prey alone, lest the feline’s hunting instincts take over,” Ghose says.
Do you have stories about your cat’s adventures with you and other animals? Do send us your story at [email protected] Please send us two photos with your story. Namaste!
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