22 March 2016

RESEARCH - Cats are More Like People Than you Think

If you think you and your cat share some personality traits, you might be right.

A study by UniSA Discovery Circle identifies five feline personality traits in cats which are somewhat in sync with ones displayed by people.

Skittishness, outgoingness, dominance, spontaneity and friendliness are dubbed the 'Feline Five' in the Cat Tracker Project.

Have a cat who likes to bully other cats? They might be high on the dominance trait.

Is your cat a bit of a loner? It is likely they are low on the friendliness front.

Research leader, Dr. Philip Roetman, says the findings are “really interesting” given those cat qualities are not dissimilar to the 'Big Five' in humans.

“Skittishness is similar to neuroticism in people, outgoingness is similar to extroversion and friendliness is akin to agreeableness,” he states in the Advertiser. “The big difference in cats is dominance and spontaneity.”

The results can offer a way owners can better bond with their pet by doing “things differently based on that cat and what it likes.”

People are fascinated by cats, they have really intriguing personalities,” Roetman says. “From a research perspective, it’s really interesting to understand and look at the personalities of different animals, especially when we are talking about management.”

The results are gleaned from nearly 3,000 cat personality tests in a study which also found a distinction between indoor and outdoor cats.

“It was only extremely slight but the only difference we found was indoor cats tended to be slightly more friendly,” Roetman says. “I think that’s really good news because people are often concerned about keeping cats indoors too much because it might have a negative impact on them, but this suggests there isn’t a negative impact on cat personality by keeping them indoors. If people want to keep their cats indoors, they can feel a bit more confident about it.”

You let your cat out in the morning and it comes back in the evening – but have you ever wondered where it went all day?

The personality test is part of the Cat Tracker project where feline owners in Australia get pets fitted with GPS technology to track where they go when they are out and about.

So far, 350 cats have been recruited to the study.

GPS images are posted on-line (www.discoverycircle.org.au) and rather interesting, showing some cats stick close to home and others venture quite far.

The Advertiser also posted a video sharing some interesting commentary on cats, including a belief humans are “biologically hardwired” to love them because their “smallish noses, big eyes and dome-shaped heads” - not unlike human babies - trigger the nurturing instinct.

It cites some psychology studies which say cat owners tend to be introverted, sensitive and non-conformist and that those downright aloof felines wiggle their way into human hearts based on the “scarcity principle,” which purports that people place higher value on an object that is scarce rather than in abundance.

Maybe cats are smarter than you think.

By Nadia Moharib
Nadia Moharib is an animal lover who has adopted everything from birds to hamsters, salamanders, rabbits, fish and felines. She has written about all-things-pets for years and was a long-time editor of a pet magazine in a daily newspaper which featured a Q & A column, Ask Whit, penned by her pooch (ghost written, of course.) The serial dog owner lives in Calgary, Alberta and most days can be found at a dog park picking up after her rescue pooch, Scoots.

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