New Cat Personality Test Helps You to Become a Better Owner

We know that cats have individual personalities just like people. Over the years various cat behaviour experts have broken down the domestic cat’s personality into various headings so that we can better understand our cat.

feline personality test
Feline personality test for a cat.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Researchers at the University of South Australia have come up with five personality traits for our beloved felines. They are somewhat like the “Big Five” personality traits for humans, namely: extroversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, conscientiousness and neuroticism.

The Big Five personality traits for cats, they have decided, are:

Skittishness — this is somewhat like the heading of neuroticism for humans. Skittish cats are more anxious and fearful than normal whereas cats who are more trusting and calm would have a low score under this heading.

Outgoingness — the equivalent human personality characteristic is extroversion. These cats are curious and active. Cats who score low under “outgoingness” tend to be “aimless” and “quitting”. Comment: I’m not sure that we can assess cats as “aimless” or “quitting”. That would seem hard to do. I do not really recognise these characteristics in the cats that I have lived with. It would be easy to misinterpret boredom as aimlessness and a lack of interest as quitting.

Dominance — we know about this characteristic. Some cats are more dominant than others. This is a personality trait given to cats alone according to the researchers. Under this heading cats who are more aggressive and possibly bullying received higher scores in the personality test. Cats who are more submissive would score low under this heading. Comment: I would have thought that this heading also applies to people. I know one or two bullies and one of them lives with a cat photographer! I disagree with the researchers in this respect.

Spontaneity — this is another personality trait which is meant to be cat-specific. Cats who score high under this heading are more impulsive and erratic. Predictable and “constrained” cats would score low under this heading.

Friendliness — this is the same as agreeableness in people. Affectionate cats are friendly whereas irritable and more solitary cats are less friendly and would score poorly for friendliness.

The researchers found, not unexpectedly, that most domestic cats occupy the middle ground in terms of personality meaning that they fell somewhere in the middle ranking for each personality factor (see below).

Feline personality test
Feline personality test results.

The study found that older cats tended to be slightly more dominant and less outgoing than younger cats. Between genders there were no significant differences and neither were there any differences between cats in New Zealand and Australia (i.e. cat personality was not affected by the country where the cat lived).

Importantly, the researchers felt, a personality trait was not dependent upon whether the cat was an indoor or indoor/outdoor cat. In other words, the cat’s personality is not affected by whether they are full-time indoor cats or not. Comment: I’m not sure about this observation. I would have thought that a cat’s personality would be affected by whether they are full-time indoors or not because personality is moulded by both inheritance and life experience (nature, nurture). However, I suppose that a cat’s personality is fixed from the first seven weeks or so of the cat’s life. Although, I’m convinced that for a cat who is naturally active being full-time indoors, let’s say in a small home, will make the cat more passive and possibly make him feel more stressed which may come through in a personality trait such as aggression.

The researchers say that the people who took part in the study worried that keeping their cats inside full-time would affect their cat’s personality negatively. However, as mentioned, they say it does not based upon their findings.

Cat personality assessment probably does help in how a person looks after their cat. For example, if a cat is skittish then it is more important that a hiding place is provided for that cat so that he/she can feel comfortable when feeling anxious. This is one example of how the test may help.

On the downside of this topic, a good cat caretaker will know their cat’s personality not in terms of headings and specific traits as referred to but in an overall sense. They would argue that you don’t need a test like this. In addition, the only way you can draw up such a test is by the cat’s owner assessing their cat and it may be difficult for that person to be objective or skilled enough to do it justice which may undermine the results.

Search results on PoC for “personality” (lots of interesting articles)

Note: The study concerned 2,800 domestic cats who were assessed on a scale of 1 to 10 for 52 different characteristics. It was reported in the Washington Post.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

6 thoughts on “New Cat Personality Test Helps You to Become a Better Owner”

  1. I can understand why she would be skittish, when she survived on a heavily trafficked bridge as a tiny kitten. When they come into a life of dangers, they learn to be wary. My cat was born to a stray, on the street. Fortunately, it was a dead end, so just the normal neighborhood traffic, but still she was very skittish when I started feeding her and her mom.

    I’ve noticed after 6 years of having her, that even in the past year, she’s become much more affectionate and jumps on my lap (after an invitation) just about any time she’s awake. I don’t know if her two recent health issues and vet visits have had anything to do with her being more affectionate, since she knows she can trust me.

    Even after all these years, she still does things she’s never done before, like sleeping in the crook of my arm last week. But hasn’t done it since, and doesn’t normally sleep with me. We’ve had a guest staying several days, so that may have been the reason.

    Rescue Remedy can be helpful in fearful cats, though I haven’t used it myself.

  2. My latest rescue ‘Irelynn’ who is a Torti is real skittish and I dont know why,I found her almost 6 months ago on a heavily trafficked bridge and she was between 8 and 9 weeks of age at the time,only time she will cuddle is when I have retired for the evening and am settled into my chair to watch the telly,she then will come up and snuggle on my lap or beside me on the chair and I fear she will not out grown her skittish ways but I dont care,I will take any affection I can get from her,she is my baby,the photo is her!

    1. She’ll probably stay a bit skittish all her life but will mellow as she becomes an adult. She is very cute indeed – gorgeous in fact. Still tiny.

  3. My cat Mitzy, was a previous feral, and has always been fearful of strangers. She’s now 7 yrs. and is becoming more accepting of friends who visit. She never ran away, but would swat at people who tried to pet her. The best way to get her acceptance is talking softly, and moving very slowly, letting her sniff your fingers or hand.

    My house mate has a cat that’s left alone in her room a lot, since she works away from home for days. When she comes home, she lets the cat out, who promptly chases Mitzy. There’s some hissing, and then my cat runs and hides. My cat was here first, but allows the other cat to dominate.

    However, when she’s out in the yard, she will chase after a couple of other cats, one Calico in particular who lives nearby, and is free roaming. She always makes a bee line for the Calico’s house, and sits patiently waiting and staring to see if she appears.

    She’s even broken free from the halter and leash to go after this cat. The other day when we went out, she ran to a favorite grassy area, and discovered the Calico hidden in the grass. The chase was on! I’m fearful about this because of cars. The cat must have jumped onto her porch and into her house, because Mitzy came back in less than a minute.

    So, she’s submissive with one cat, and dominant with another. She’s not outgoing or friendly with other people, and seems to be a one person cat. She was deemed “unadoptable” by the shelter, and I imagine that if I die before her, she’ll revert to that original label. For that reason, I’ve requested that she be euthanized, rather than go through suffering in a cage, only to be killed after the month long evaluation/holding time.

    I feel that it’s my duty as her guardian to protect her from harm, when I die, as I have in life.

    1. I love your comment Sandy. It shows the complexity of cat personality and your keen observation of what is going on. Tests likes the one I have written about are a blunt instrument in assessing personality. You are a very thoughtful cat guardian.

    2. Sandra my heart breaks to hear that but I understand completely,when I’m gone it has been understood my cats are not to be rehomed and I told hubby if he does that to any of my cats I will haunt him and he believes it!

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