This is an interesting study (Turner 1995a) which compared the general interaction between cat guardians and Persian and Siamese cats compared to random bred cats (non-pedigree cats). It was conducted in Switzerland and is reported in a book called Companion Animals and Us-Exploring the Relationships between People and Pets. It is a very detailed study so I will try and summarise the findings which are quite stark I have to say.
The human participants varied in age and in their gender. The cats were both indoor and outdoor cats. There were single people and couples involved in the study. In total 139 cats and their owners participated. There were 71 female and 46 male owners with a mean age of 62 years. Sixty-one of the participants had non-pedigree cats while 35 had Persian cats and 21 had Siamese cats.
The overall conclusion, as I read the results, indicate that the human participants decided that pedigree cats, in this case either Persian or Siamese cats, made better pets by which I mean in every respect.
Siamese versus non-pedigree
So for example, with respect to playfulness, the participants rated non-pedigree cats at 37.3 with Siamese cats are 53.6. They decided that non-pedigree cats compared to Siamese cats were more lazy, less affectionate to their owner, more independent, less predictable, less fond of physical contact, less friendly to strangers, less likely to be close in terms of physical distance with their owner, less curious, and as mentioned above less playful.
Persians versus non-pedigree
With respect to Persian cats the results were similar. The participants decided that compared to Persian cats, non-pedigree cats were less affectionate to their owner, kept their distance more, were less good at using the cat litter, were less affectionate to their owner, sprayed urine more often, directed vocalisations (spoke) at their owner less often, were less clean, were less predictable, were less friendly to strangers, were more aggressive, were less playful and more independent. It’s a clean sweep against non-pedigree cats and for Persian cats.
Older versus younger people
In addition, older people showed more tolerance or acceptance of their cat’s behaviour. Conversely, younger adults who were owners of cats wanted their cat to conform more to their lifestyles. This implies, to me, that they were less tolerant of a domestic cat’s natural behaviour and want them to fit in more. This would make them less good as cat owners in my view. In addition, older people accepted the independence of the domestic cat better than younger adults.
There was a greater interaction between owner and cat with respect to Persian and Siamese cats (particularly in respect of Siamese cats) than with non-pedigree cats. Comment: Siamese are very loyal and like to be close to their owner which would incourage more interactions.
Women versus men
The study also found that in respect of petting time, interaction from a distance, speaking to their cat (number of times per hour) and a cat’s willingness to comply with a request interact, women out ranked men in every respect. What I mean by that is women did things better than men with respect to these areas of domestic cat to human activities.
My thoughts on buying cats compared to adopting them
I have to put one added thought into the mix on this. With respect to dogs, it is argued that people regard pedigree dogs as better pets too because they are purebred and they cost a lot of money. I wonder, whether the fact that a person is buying a pedigree cat influences their attitude towards that cat. Looking at it in an objective way, if you buy a possession that’s expensive you are more likely to treat that possession as precious. If the possession is a living creature then you are more likely to pamper the creature and respect the creature more. So there may be an element, in this study, of the influence of money and the cost.
Dogs are taken to the veterinarian more often than cats. This implies they are pampered more than cats. It is far more likely that a person will own a purebred, pedigree dog than a pedigree cat because there are far more purebred dogs than purebred cats. This indicates a support for my argument above.
Random bred cats and dogs (mongrels for dogs) can be associated with stray animals. And stray animals are often dirty, underfed and diseased in the eyes of many people. I love random bred cats but the general public may have a distorted viewpoint on them. And they see wonderfully groomed and presented glamorous pedigree cats which encourage them to see them as superior creatures demanding better treatment and greater interaction. People are drawn towards pedigree cats because of their appearance. And there is a focus on appearance by people. There always has been and it doesn’t matter where we are referring to companion animals or any other object such as houses, cars or microwaves. Appearance matters and is perhaps the number one factor as to whether a person likes or dislikes an object.
As far as I can see the study did not discuss these topics i.e. the underlying reasons behind this huge variance in all aspects of domestic cat ownership between two of the oldest purebred cats, Siamese and Persians, and random bred cats.