Scientists once rejected the idea that cats, like animals in general, have personalities. Over time however, it has been recognised that it is important to be able to recognise and assess the personalities of cats, because this can result in better keeping and care of the animal. If both are adapted to the character of the cat, it ensures or improves both the well-being and the health of the cat and increases its quality of life.
As part of a study, researchers have defined five main personality traits of cats ('Feline Five'), each of which summarises a large number of related traits. The research team grouped them under the terms neuroticism, extraversion, dominance, impulsivity and tolerance. Each of these characteristics can be developed to different extents.
Every cat has all of these characteristics, but in different markedness. When evaluating your own cat, the extremes are interesting and important. If your animal has unusually high or low values for a factor.
Once you have recognised this, you can make changes in the keeping of your cat to accommodate its character traits accordingly.
insecure, fearful, scared of people, suspicious and shy
Feline Five – Practical application
Extremely high and extremely low values for the factors can indicate unease and illnesses. If you've determined that your cat is at one extreme in personality, you should make changes in the cats surrounding or see a veterinarian to check for any medical issues. The following examples show you what you can do:
Do you have an extremely shy, scared cat? Then you can create additional retreat/hiding places in the house/apartment. Consider if you really want to let the cat go outside, where other, stronger cats could hurt her. The latter also applies to the cats who have a low proportion of neuroticism. They are at a higher risk of injury and death outside (fights with other cats/accidents with cars).
Is your animal very extroverted? Provide plenty of incentives/extra stimulation so your cat doesn't get bored. Play with her, create a lot of variety. If your cat is on the other side of the scale and hardly shows any curiosity, is not very active and alert, have it examined by a veterinarian, as illness can be the course.
Dominant cats: It has not yet been fully researched how extreme values for the dominance factor can be used to improve cat welfare. Do you have an extremely influential cat? Then don't even think about bringing a second cat into the house.
Do you observe that your cat is unpredictable and reckless? If so, adjust your environment so that there are no potential stressors. If you don't know what is causing the stress in your cat, consult a behavioural therapist for advice. Does your cat show less impulsive behaviour with the implemented changes? That is great, the cat feels safe now.
Is your cat very compatible and friendly? Great, your cat is happy and satisfied. If the characteristics change, the cat becomes irritable or aggressive, you should consult a veterinarian. Your cat might be in pain.
Study describes pet cat personality. American Veterinary Medical Association. [accessed 2021 Mar 3]. https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2017-11-01/study-describes-pet-cat-personality Which Personality Does Your Cat Have? [accessed 2021 Mar 4]. https://www.petmd.com/news/view/which-personality-does-your-cat-have-35643