Do cats in multi-cat homes adjust their personality to fit in with the other cats?

Do cats adjust their personality to fit in with those of the other cats and dogs in a multi-animal home? This is a difficult subject to discuss because there is little if any information about it! I have to think about it from scratch. When I do that, I tend to start with human behaviour. I think it is clear that an individual adult person’s personality might gradually change when placed in a certain environment that requires them to change their character.

Oscar's character
Oscar’s character. Photo: Instagram.
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You can categorise a domestic cat’s character in many ways but there are two distinct categories which often are mentioned namely timid and bold. Obviously, there are nuances on these basic differences in character. I can refer to 2 studies on this topic. One concerns myself and the other concerns stickleback fish! I’ll do the fish first

A study found that sticklebacks can be either bold or timid. They found that timid sticklebacks joined a group of bold sticklebacks because they had a better chance of finding food. And in doing so they had to become bolder themselves, at least temporarily. They had to swim much faster to keep up with the bold sticklebacks.

As for myself, I used to be quite quiet and slightly lacking in confidence for a specific reason which I can’t mention here. I became a solicitor (attorney) later in life after much studying. After about 14 years of practising as a solicitor my character had changed quite distinctly. I was much more confident and outgoing. I was almost noisy and demanding. I still am outspoken and demanding and I don’t care what people think. Practising law changed me. I had to change in order to deal with the problems that I confronted and to stand up in court with some degree of confidence. So, the character of an adult person can be moulded by the circumstances in which they find themselves. I suppose that is common knowledge but I’m trying to point to specific examples.

On that basis, I think it is reasonable to suggest that an adult domestic cat’s character can be moulded by other cats in a multi-cat household which enables them better to fit in. And in fitting in they are more able to survive in their eyes. They don’t need to think about survival because they are provided for but what changes their behaviour is this desire to survive. I’m suggesting that a timid cat might come out of their shell and become more confident particularly if they are mentored by one cat in the group that they can befriend. I am speculating. But it is also stated that a cat’s character is formed during the first 7 weeks of life. I don’t think it is immutably fixed. It can be changed.

It is a worthwhile thought, I believe, because there is genuine difficulty in ensuring that cats in multi-cat homes get along harmoniously. They say that even if cats are not a good match, they eventually get around to accepting each other. Part of this process may be an adjustment by the incoming cat in respect of their character so they get along better with the resident cat.

The sticklebacks’ study I think is pertinent to this discussion. But there are no studies as far as I’m aware on this topic. In fact, studies concerning domestic cat personalities are very thin on the ground.


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