Five Traits That Define a Cat's Personality

Five Traits That Define a Cat's Personality
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Psychologists commonly utilize the five factor model to characterize human personality. Making up this model are the "Big Five" traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The intermixing dance of these five traits forms your personality, at least in the eyes of some psychologists.

Now, a team of researchers primarily based out of the University of South Australia has created a similar personality index for cats.

Reporting this week in the journal PLoS ONE, the team laid out the "Feline Five" of traits forming a cat's personality: neuroticism, extraversion, dominance, impulsiveness and agreeableness.

The researchers developed their index with the help of a large survey of 2,291 cat owners in Australia and New Zealand. The 308 men and 1,850 women (cue the cat lady quips) who took part were given a laundry list of 52 behaviors and told to rate how each applied to their specific pets on a seven-point scale ranging from ‘Not at all’ to ‘Very much so’. Behaviors included things like "easily distracted and has a short attention span," "retreats readily or moves away from other cats," and "unaffected by emotions and usually undisturbed, assured, and calm." The researchers used statistical analyses to classify the 52 behaviors under the "Feline Five."

(1) Neuroticism- reflects strongest levels of traits, such as insecure, anxious, fearful of people, suspicious and shy; (2) Dominance- reflects bullying, dominant and aggressive to other cats; (3) Impulsiveness- reflects impulsive, erratic and reckless; and (4) Agreeableness- reflects affectionate, friendly to people and gentle. However, our fifth factor Extraversion also revealed traits normally associated with Self-control in Scottish wildcats including decisive, aimless, persevering and quitting.

The researchers contend that their personality index can help cat owners create a more nurturing environment for their beloved pets. "[Neurotic cats] may benefit from additional hiding places around the home or access to quiet areas," they write, while extraverted cats "may need additional stimulation and more complex environmental enrichment to avoid boredom, such as extra room to play, additional sensory items or toys, and social interactions with humans..."

You can bet that many cat owners will be keen to psychologically profile their pets. We are an odd bunch...

(Any pet owners interested in assessing their cat's personality can find the survey here.)

Source: Litchfield CA, Quinton G, Tindle H, Chiera B, Kikillus KH, Roetman P (2017) The ‘Feline Five’: An exploration of personality in pet cats (Felis catus). PLoS ONE 12(8): e0183455. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0183455

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