Dr. John Bradshaw in his book Cat Sense suggests that longhaired cats, particularly Persians, have a reputation for being lethargic. Persian cats do indeed have a reputation for being lethargic and decorative. The general view is that this character trait is bred into them through selective breeding. It is part of their personality. But Bradshaw suggests that they are not particularly fond of close contact with people because they overheat easily. And they overheat easily because of their unnaturally long fur which is also the product of selective breeding. The fur is so long that they do not have the capacity to maintain it themselves and rely on the intervention of their caregiver to keep it in good condition.
My research on the Internet, however, indicates that Persians are very fond of close contact with people. Therefore, either Dr. Bradshaw is wrong or the huge body of Persian cat owners are deceiving themselves! It’s an interesting thought, though, about the body temperature of purebred cats affecting their behaviour.
A lot of people want their domestic cat companion to be a lap cat. It is nice to have your cat on your lap as you watch television. She keeps you company and we all need close contact with friends because humans are social animals. But I know for a fact that my cat, who is a shorthaired random-bred cat, likes to jump off my lap when he gets too hot. So, if the days are warm and the interior of my home is also warm, he will jump onto my lap but he won’t stay there for as long as he normally would. Clearly, he gets too hot. We have to remind ourselves that domestic cats are wearing an overcoat at all times of their life designed to keep them warm outside the home.
The Persian cat probably has the longest fur of all the breeds and therefore Dr. Bradshaw’s argument does carry some weight in my view. Although it flies in the face of public opinion.
On an associated topic about the Persian personality, I read that they can be nervous which can lead them to being a bit naughty when using the litter box. I have read that they have a predisposition to inappropriate elimination. And I wonder whether the nervousness is one reason why they are described as lethargic? It’s as if they don’t want to engage because they’re too nervous to engage. That may be a factor although I am speculating.
Bradshaw was discussing whether the purebred cats have distinct personalities. He concluded that there is “little hard information on precisely how breeds differ in personality and how these differences arise”. I agree with him. The descriptions of the personalities of the individual cat breeds are always anecdotal. A lot of it is glossed up as it’s been passed around the Internet for many years. What was a feeling from one owner or breeder becomes a fact 10 years later. I would be cautious about descriptions of cat breed personalities.
Also on an associated topic, Dr. Bradshaw says that the predisposition of the oriental breeds to eating fabrics i.e. pica is part of their personality although he describes them as pathologies and as such the scientists don’t classify these abnormalities as aspects of personality. Is the desire to eat wool a personality trait or a mental illness?
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