Scientists reveal key PURR-sonality differences between cat breeds
How does YOUR cat stack up? Scientists reveal key PURR-sonality differences between breeds — with Russian Blues the most fearful and Turkish Vans the most aggressive
- University of Helsinki researchers created a new cat personality questionnaire
- They used it to collect data on more than 4,300 cats from 26 different breeds
- Seven traits were found, including playfulness, fearfulness and grooming levels
- Studying cat personalities may help us to combat pet behavioural problems
Key personality differences between cat breeds have been identified by scientists — with Russian Blues the most fearful and Turkish Vans the most aggressive.
Researchers from the University of Helsinki created a new and more comprehensive questionnaire for surveying the personalities and behaviours of our feline friends.
After studying data on more than 4,300 cats from 26 different breeds, the team identified seven key traits, including playfulness, fearfulness and grooming levels.
According to the team, studying behaviour and personality traits in cats may help us to address behavioural problems like aggression and inappropriate elimination.
Key personality differences between cat breeds have been identified by scientists — with Russian Blues (top right) the most fearful and Turkish Vans (top left) the most aggressive
THE SEVEN KEY FELINE PERSONALITY AND BEHAVIOURAL TRAITS
‘Litter box issues and excessive grooming are not personality traits as such,’ noted Ms Mikkola.
‘But they can indicate something about the cat’s sensitivity to stress.
‘Compared to dogs, less is known about the behaviour and personality of cats, and there is demand for identifying related problems and risk factors,’ said paper author and feline behaviour expert Salla Mikkola of the University of Helsinki.
‘We need more understanding and tools to weed out problematic behaviour and improve cat welfare.
‘The most common behavioural challenges associated with cats relate to aggression and inappropriate elimination.’
In their study, Ms Mikkola and colleagues developed a questionnaire that asked owners the extent to which they agreed with 138 statements about their feline’s personality and behaviour.
These included prompts like whether the cat ‘gets along well with other cats in the household’, ‘always greets unfamiliar adults visiting your home in a friendly manner’ or ‘often exhibits sudden bursts of running (zoomies”)’.
The advantage of surveying cat owners rather than undertaking behavioural tests is that they give a sense of a feline’s long-term behaviour in their everyday setting, rather than in a lab where the cat may react unusually to its new surroundings.
Analysis revealed seven key personality and behavioural traits that not only varied among individual felines, but also manifested as clear personality differences between different breeds.
‘The most fearful breed was the Russian Blue, while the Abyssinian was the least fearful. The Bengal was the most active breed, while the Persian and Exotic were the most passive,’ noted paper author Hannes Lohi, also of the University of Helsinki.
‘The breeds exhibiting the most excessive grooming were the Siamese and Balinese, while the Turkish Van breed scored considerably higher in aggression towards humans and lower in sociability towards cats.’
‘The most fearful breed was the Russian Blue, while the Abyssinian was the least fearful. The Bengal was the most active breed, while the Persian and Exotic were the most passive,’ noted paper author Hannes Lohi, also of the University of Helsinki. Pictured: a Persian cat
The researchers cautioned that, at this stage, they have not carried out any pairwise comparisons between different cat breeds.
‘We wanted to obtain a rough idea of whether there are differences in personality traits between breeds,’ Ms Mikkola explained.
‘In further studies, we will utilise more complex models to examine factors that affect traits and problematic behaviour.
‘In these models, we will take into consideration, in addition to its breed, the cat’s age, gender, health and a wide range of environmental factors.’
Analysis revealed seven key personality and behavioural traits that not only varied among individual felines, but also manifested as clear personality differences between different breeds. Pictured: a Russian Blue cat, which the team report is the most fearful breed
One concern with using questionnaires to look at cat personalities is that they are inherently subjective in nature, meaning that their reliability must also be assessed.
To do this, the researchers reached out to respondents between one and three months after they completed the survey and asked them to either complete the questionnaire again, or to have another adult in the household respond.
Based on the results, the team were able to see how consistent the answers to the questionnaire were, both temporally but also between different respondents.
‘By comparing the responses, we noted that the responses provided for the same cat were very similar, while the personality and behaviour traits were found to be reproducible and reliable,’ explained Ms Mikkola.
‘We also examined the validity of the questionnaire — whether it measures what it intended to measure. In these terms, too, the questionnaire functioned well.’
After studying more than 4,300 cats — from 26 different breed groups — the team identified seven key traits, including playfulness (pictured), fearfulness and grooming levels
‘Internationally speaking, our study is the most extensive and significant survey so far and it provides excellent opportunities for further research,’ said Professor Lohi.
‘The reliability of prior feline behavioural questionnaires has not been measured in such a versatile manner, nor are they as comprehensive as this one.’
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Animals.
Feline friendly: Letting your cat CHOOSE when it wants to be petted can boost your relationship — and save you from getting bitten or scratched, study claims
Letting your cat pick when it wants to be petted may improve your relationship — and also save you from getting bitten or scratched — a study has concluded.
Feline behaviour experts from the Nottingham Trent University have developed a set of set of interaction guidelines to aid pet owners — which they have dubbed ‘CAT’.
These advise to give their cats choice and control (C), pay attention (A) to their pet’s behaviour and body language and think about where they are touching (T) their kitty.
When these simple rules are followed, the team found, cats are less likely to behave aggressively towards humans and were also more affectionate.
Letting your cat pick when it wants to be petted may improve your relationship — and also save you from getting bitten or scratched — a study has concluded. Pictured: a can bunts a man
According to study leader Lauren Finka — a feline behaviour expert from Nottingham Trent University — the key to making sure your cat is happy and comfortable when you are together lies in ensuring that it is control of the interactions.
A good place to start, she explained, is by offering your hand to your cat and letting it decide if it wants to interact — if it is willing, it will most likely rub itself against you.
Owners should allow their cat to move away if they want to and resist the temptation to follow the feline or pick it up, as this takes away the cat’s sense of control, the researchers explained.
Cats are easily over-stimulated by petting. Signs a cat may want you to stop petting it can include it thrashing its tail, turning its head away, rotating or flattening its ears, shaking its head, licking its nose, trying to move away, or rippling the fur on it back.
Other behaviours may include if the cat goes still, stops purring, stops rubbing itself back against you, suddenly start to groom itself or rapidly turns its head to face you.
Cats are easily over-stimulated by petting. Signs a cat may want you to stop petting it can include it thrashing its tail, turning its head away, rotating or flattening its ears, shaking its head, licking its nose, trying to move away, or rippling the fur on it back. Continuing to pet a cat at this point may force it to resort to less subtle messages — like scratching (pictured)
Continuing to pet a cat at this point may force it to resort to less subtle messages of its discomfort — including scratching, hissing or biting you.
As part of their study, Dr Finka and colleagues also looked at where cats most like to be stroked — with the base of their ears, around their cheeks and under the chin being prime petting positions.
According to the team, avoiding touching the tummy and the base of a cat’s tail — as well as being careful when stroking their backs — is often wise, especially with an unfamiliar feline, although there are some cats which will enjoy being petted here.
‘The results demonstrate a clear preference amongst cats for a more “hands off” approach to petting, which ultimately lets them call most of the shots,’ said Dr Finka.
‘Cats are not necessarily known for being overly expressive when it comes to communicating how they are feeling.’
‘This can often cause issues during petting because many cats may feel a little uncomfortable at times, but this isn’t something that is always easy for us to pick up on,’ she concluded.
‘The results demonstrate a clear preference amongst cats for a more “hands off” approach to petting, which ultimately lets them call most of the shots,’ said Dr Finka
‘While every cat has a wonderfully unique personality, they do often share fundamental similarities, as this new study shows,’ said Battersea Dogs & Cats Home’s feline welfare manager, JoAnna Puzzo.
‘Cats can be incredibly subtle when expressing their likes and dislikes, and as a result their behaviour can be misunderstood or ignored completely.’
‘By using these new simple yet effective “Cat” guidelines, owners will be able to better understand how their cat is feeling and adapt how they interact together to ensure their pet is happy and relaxed.’
To help them refine the CAT guidelines, the team monitored brief interactions between human participants and 100 felines in Battersea’s London cattery.
Each participant interacted with six cats — three before receiving training on the CAT guidelines and then three after.
The researchers found that cats were much less likely to exhibit signs of discomfort or behave aggressively when people followed the guidelines.
The same cats were also more likely to show friendly behaviours towards the participants and appeared more comfortable during the interactions that occurred post-training, the team noted.
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.
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