Domestic cat personality influences opportunity, desire and effectiveness of predation

A domestic cat’s personality influences how keen they are to go hunting and it will also affect how effective they are and therefore how many prey animals they kill and/or bring back home. And, secondly, owners’ perceptions of cat personality can influence cats’ access to the outside which also has an impact on the number of prey animals killed.

Cat predation worries many
Cat predation worries many. Photo: Shutterstock.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I present the findings of a study: “Pet cat personality linked to owner-reported predation frequency”, below in bullet-fashion as I think the information lends itself to this kind of presentation.

  1. 2,508 cat owners participated in this study in France.
  2. The researchers used a standard personality test to decide whether the cats were extrovert with low levels of neuroticism or had low levels of agreeableness or high levels of dominance.
  3. In general terms, confident, outgoing cats (“high levels of extroversion or low levels of neuroticism”) hunted more frequently. Owners who believed that their cats weren’t very agreeable or were dominant reported that they hunted birds less frequently.
  4. The personality of a domestic cat influences their desire to hunt and I would suggest that also it affects their abilities to hunt effectively because this is dependent upon intelligence which is part of personality.
  5. The personalities described were: extroversion (being an extrovert or outgoing), which reflected a high level of intelligence and perseverance; neuroticism (anxiety from timidity); agreeableness (friendliness).
  6. The scientists decided that different breeds had different personalities and that moggies had different personalities to the breeds. Caveat: I’ve always said that you can’t brand a single breed with the same personality. And the same applies to moggies. That’s because each individual cat has their own personality but what they are saying is that, in broadbrush terms, they detected personality differences between some of the breeds. For example, Bengal and Maine Coon cats “demonstrate lower levels of neuroticism than other cats”. And Bengal cats are described as “intelligent and active, while Birman cats are described as affectionate and gentle”. Also, they found that “Ragdoll, Persian, and British Shorthair cats generally seem to be more agreeable, less dominant and less extroverted than other breeds of cat”.
  7. Different cats hunt at different levels. The desire to hunt varies between individual cats.
  8. RELATED: 12 facts about preventing domestic cat predation
  9. Although personality plays a role in the desire to hunt, so does the owner’s willingness to allow their cat access to the outside. Owners can make the inside of their home very enjoyable for their cat which might demotivate the cat to go outside. If a cat is well fed it may influence predation rates although the desire to hunt is not strictly linked to hunger. Further, if a cat owner perceives their cat as timid they might want to keep them indoors to protect them as they feel they are more vulnerable outside. The conclusion here is that owners can dictate how much hunting their cat does which is common sense because many owners keep their cats inside full-time anyway. I’m referring here to an intermediate situation where there is resticted access to the outside.
  10. “For birds and small mammals, cats with high levels of extroversion (here, intelligence and perseverance) had significantly higher frequencies of prey brought home, whereas cats with high levels of neuroticism (shyness and fear of other cats) had significantly lower frequencies”.
  11. In other words, using my words, confident, outgoing cats “hunt wild prey more frequently”.
  12. Cats that are less agreeable meaning less friendly towards people and cats that are more dominant “had high levels of bringing home birds but not small mammals”.
  13. The age and sex of the cat did not have an influence on their keenness to hunt or their effectiveness in hunting.
  14. Cats that are more anxious i.e. neurotic to use the language of the scientists, will be more fearful to go outside compared to other cats and therefore will hunt less.
  15. Cats that are very friendly might be motivated to stay indoors with their owners which would also reduce the amount of time they hunt.
  16. Some owners felt that their cat’s personality made them unsuited to go outside thereby restricting their opportunities to hunt.
  17. As you might expect, cats living in rural or suburban settings “as opposed to an urban environment and a high abundance of vegetation around the home were associated with higher frequencies of prey brought home”.
  18. Also on a common sense basis, cats spending more time outdoors tended to bring home more prey.
  19. The availability of prey reflects the environment around the home of the cat concerned such as where there is more flora and fauna there’s going to be more effective hunting.
  20. Link to the study: https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.9651
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RELATED: Cat owners are unconcerned about wildlife predation by their cats

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