According to an article recently published in “Catnip”, (the newsletter for caring cat owners) produced by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, “Our loveable domestic cats have more in common with big cats than previously thought.”
The study made by The University of Edinburgh in Scotland and the Bronx Zoo in the USA compared the personalities of domestic cats with big cats living in captivity. Included in the study were snow leopards and African lions.
Researchers in the United Kingdom observed that our domestic cats are more “neurotic and controlling” than we appreciate and their opinion is that kitty guardians may be giving our cats more loving attention than is appropriate. The researchers also concluded that our adored “lap cats” have many things in common with the African lion, which include neuroticism, impulsivity and dominance.
The researchers “mapped their behavior with the ‘Big Five’ human personality traits: Openness to Experience, Extraversion/ introversion, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness and Neuroticism following the study of 100 domestic cats at two shelters. They also monitored the behavior of snow leopards, clouded leopards, Scottish wildcats and African lions.
The results of their study showed that regardless of their size, all of the cats that were observed had similar personalities. The researchers concluded that
“Across the five felid species we assessed, personality structure was strikingly similar.”
But what troubled me about the conclusions that the researchers reached was based on its methodology, since the study only involved domestic cats in shelters, and big cats living in a zoo environment. Although lead researcher Marieke Gartner, from the University of Edinburgh basically conceded that the mental makeup of our own pet cats may be slightly different than shelter cats, based on the study his opinion remains that we probably don’t fully understand our kitties as well as we think we do. He said, “People often don’t know how to treat them and then are surprised by their behavior.”
But as far as I am concerned, comparing shelter kitties to cats who are living in the home of feline savvy, trusted, loving guardians and comparing big cats confined in cages in a zoo, to big cats who can roam free in their native habitat are, pardon the old adage; comparing apples to oranges. I am of the opinion that if the researchers also compared domestic pet cats living in stable, loving homes, with exotic big cats living in their natural habitat, the results of the study might be more compelling.
While the results of all this “highly” scientific research may seem rather ominous to those of us who live with beloved, however diminutive predators, must we as guardians wonder if we are protected from being stalked, captured and ultimately devoured by our pet cats simply because we are so much larger than they are? I think not. After all, aren’t our beloved pet felines who live in nurturing, trusted environments, capable of building strong, loving bonds with their guardians?
It’s no secret to anyone who truly understands felines that cats living in shelters and big cats confined in zoos are very likely to develop neurotic and impulsive behavior. Of course we observe dominant, impulsive and territorial behavior in domestic pet cats since they are part of feline nature. But I must take umbrage with the results the researchers reached who based their findings only studying the behavior of shelter cats kept in cages, and big exotic cats confined in a zoo environment.
What is your opinion of this study? Do you think it is limited? Share your thoughts in a comment.
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