Insights into cat breed differences regarding social and non-social behaviour

A study published today, 28 May 2019, on the website provides us with some insights into the social and non-social behaviour of the various cat breeds. I am always a bit sceptical about this type of study partly because it’s based upon a sample of 5726 cats of 40 breeds and questionnaires sent to the cats’ owners (there are 104 breeds). This form research is not always highly reliable because you are relying upon cat owners who have strong bonds with their cat to make objective observations about behaviour. They are liable to make subjective observations due to the emotional connection they have with their cat. Nonetheless I am going to cover, in summary form, the findings of this research because it is quite interesting.

Abandoned Turkish Van kittens
Abandoned Turkish Van kittens. Photo: public domain
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Breed differences in social behaviour

The researchers detected differences between the various cat breeds in terms of social behaviour. Social behaviour refers to interactions between individual cats and their owner or owners. They found that British Shorthair cats were the most likely to have less contact with their owners. In contrast, Korats had the “lowest probability for decreased contact of people” (i.e. were more likely to have contact with people). Turkish Vans were most likely to be aggressive towards people. At the other end of the spectrum, British Shorthairs, Persians and Cornish Rexes were the least likely to be aggressive towards people including strangers.

Chart showing differences in aggression and shyness of the various cat breeds
For the scientifically minded

Turkish Vans were also the most likely cat breed to be aggressive towards other cats. Persian were the least likely to be aggressive towards other cats. Comment: I understand that Persians can be quite sensitive emotionally. As for shyness, the Russian Blue “had the highest probability for shyness towards strangers” whereas Burmese cats at the lowest probability or are the least shy cat breed.

Comment: the fact that one breed is more aggressive than another does not mean that they are aggressive. It means what it says. It is a comparison.

Picture of white Persian kitten Cristalline
Picture of white Persian kitten Cristalline

Breed differences in non-social behaviour

The most active breeds were found to be the Cornish Rex, Korat, and Bengal. Comment: it does not surprise me at the Bengal is an active cat because they are wild cat hybrids. By contrast, the Persian was deemed to be the least active. Norwegian Forest Cats, Turkish Vans, and Maine Coons together with “house cats” (I presume this means random bred cats) were “the most likely to perform wool sucking whereas Russian Blue cats were “the least likely”.

Regarding excessive grooming, Burmese and Oriental cats had the highest probability for this stress-related condition. At the other end of the spectrum, Persian cats had the lowest likelihood of over-grooming as was the case with “British cats” (I presume the researchers mean British Shorthairs).

As for general behavioural problems as assessed by their owners, Persian and Oriental cats were the most likely to have a problem. European and British shorthairs were the least like to have behavioural problems. The former observation seems to clash with the other findings i.e. Persians are calm, and if it does it supports by viewpoint that these studies are not that reliable.

The researchers decided that there were big differences between the breeds in respect of social behaviour. They did not find that Bengal cats were high in aggression as had been found in a previous study. Earlier studies had found that the Persian was the least aggressive and their study confirmed it. Their finding that the Russian blue was shy contrasted with earlier studies. They also found that their study contradicted earlier studies regarding the shyness of Abyssinian cats and Persians.

I’ve summarised it to make it manageable but you can read the entire study if you wish by clicking on this link.

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