Cat Personality Types
Proactive, bold cat F1 Savannah FOCUS - photo by Michael Broad
A lot of people, including so called experts and scientists, don't think that there is such a thing as cat personality types. A lot of vets until fairly recently didn't even think cats felt pain so they declawed them without conscience! Things are changing.
People are often categorised into personality types. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC) systemised and developed temperament theory.
Cat breeds have distinct appearances otherwise they would not be a cat breed. And people in the cat fancy also like to differentiate between the cat breeds in terms of cat personality. The Ragdoll is relaxed and the Bengal is active and so on.
It is neither that straightforward nor so well packaged because individual cat personalities outweigh breed personality traits. And it is possible to place individual cats, whether they are wild, purebred, random bred or feral into a category of cat personality type.
There are several terms to describe cat personality. I am sure some scientists don't like to think of cats as having personalities - it is too unscientific. Accordingly, other terminology is proposed such as: coping style, temperament, behavioral tendency, strategy, syndrome etc. However, there is now greater recognition amongst scientists that the personality of vertebrates varies between the extremes of bold at one end of the spectrum and shy at the other. A cat with a bold personality is proactive and the shy cat is reactive. Clearly there is a lot of middle ground.
Proactive cats tend to become aggressive quicker than reactive cats. They explore more and try and "manipulate the situation"1. They have less fear of new things or experiences (not neophobic). These cats are less "socially bound". They are therefore more prone to disperse but they have routines and are less innovative.
Reactive cats are what one might imagine them to be. They react to change and resist and/or adjust. They are "more cautious and more sensitive to external stimuli". They make decisions more slowly (cautiously) and adjust to changes rather than make changes. Reactive cats are less prone to take risk but are more prone to stress related illness.
- Proactive cat personality types control their environment and
- Reactive cat personality types cope with their environment
Whereas cats who are more reactive can suffer from stress more readily, proactive cats, in taking higher risk and demonstrating more aggression, are exposed to the possibility of a greater chance of infection of the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) particularly if the cats concerned are feral tom cats.
Feral tom cats who are proactive are the male cats with the highest social rank. Cats with the highest social rank also tend to be the largest and oldest cats. This links with the concept that aggression enables dominance and a higher social rank. Size and experience counts.
It is probable that proactive or bold cat personality type cats are under less stress and have at least potentially a better survival rate (but there is no science on this as far as I am aware).
However, as mentioned the bold cat get into social ranking fights. This leads to bites, which in turn leads to a greater risk of infection of FIV as it is transmitted through bites.
In terms of evolution it may transpire that bold cat personality types develop a resistance to FIV over time and/or they become less proactive or a least less aggressive whilst retaining their bold characters.
Inbetween these two extremes of the shy and retiring reactive cats and the bold up front proactive cats there is the vast majority of cats in the middle ground.
Looking at my two cats:
- Charlie who has three legs is definitely towards the top of the proactive bold type category. Despite having three legs, he chases foxes for a pastime!
- Binnie is very definitely reactive - a classic model of that kind of cat.
Both are charming in their own way. I know that true cat lovers and caretakers are very aware of their cat's personality. You get to know it intimately. It is some veterinarians in America who seem to see cats as automatons without feeling and individuality. This allows them to mistreat cats in declawing them. We are right.
Image of faces: Wikimedia Commons file
1. Bold attitude makes male urban feral domestic cats more vulnerable to Feline Immunodeficiency Virus by Eugenia Natoli et al published by Science Direct (online).
Purebred is just another name for inbred. Nothing to be proud of.
🙂 I like that.
Dont declaw. Its not a teddy bear, its a cat. This comes from someone who lets her kitty sleep in her bed with her and sometimes gets the odd scratched ankle. Clip the claws or hand her to a no kill shelter. What kind of people are you that want to control everything? Cats aren’t perfect. I live with 3, one scratches the carpet, one bites, and one pees. I dont just put up with it, but I know there is a possibility that you can train them if you can understand why they do what they do, stress causes people to wig out as well and its always better to analyse and treat stress. Would you cut a man’s hand off if he hit another man?
I just posted a story about my 20+ tiny rescued kitty. I have had several rescued kitties in my lifetime. They have all damaged furniture, etc. with their claws. My 20 year Katy Kat had front paws declawed. My vet did not declaw in his early practice. I discussed declawing with my trust worthy vet. He said after researching declawing, that it did not appear to do any harm.
Hi, Where did you post your story? I strongly disagree on moral grounds declawing cats. It is legalized cat abuse as far as I am concerned.
I have welcomed a new kitten in my home. He was tiny when he arrived. But, when he my very large male tuxedo. That little guy puffed up arched his back and raised one paw. He is not afraid of anything. His sister lives wit freoinds and she is the same way. My guy was very aggressive toward my big guy that big guy would hide from. He would also attack my hand full claws and teeth. My two guys wrestle around but little one does not put out his claws at all. Even thou big guy can pin him down with no problems. Both the little ones are very strong and agile with there paws. The female stashes candy. She will steal it from the dish and hide it in her special stash. My boy is verily aloof except when he i sleepie. Then he will climb up and rub on me like he’s so in love and wants to neck with me. He loves kisses. I have had many cats. All of u are right they r individuals each and every one. We see it so much more than vets because we love them vets only make there money off them.
Can anyone tell me if these strange little ways r a sigh of a certain breed. They are both white and gray. She is beautiful looks like she was painted with a powder puff. He has stronger stripe almost brindle like o rear legs. Big paws. I’ve never had a cat like him before. So different. He is also very smart. Easily learned the ropes. Good Cat hope some can help solve the mystery. Thanks jana
Hi Jana, thanks for visiting and sharing. It is almost certain that your cats are random bred cats (moggies) even if they are beautiful. However occasionally, purebred, pedigree cats are out there in rescue centers etc. If you upload a picture using the form on the home page (just scroll down the page), I’ll add a second comment about whether they are cats of a cat breed.