By Kia Benson, DVM
Associate Veterinarian, Clinical Toxicology
The advent of the Internet brought us a boom in cat videos across the world, and an increase in the attention we pay to cats. Cats have become the number one pet in America according to sheer numbers. Yet time and time again I hear about and read disparaging comments about cats in the news and social media:
Cats are loners and like to be left alone. Cats are aloof and do not express love. Cats cannot be trained. Male cats are more loving than female cats. Cats do not like other cats in the home, nor do they like dogs.
Let us shine some light on these myths, and find out about the true nature of our feline brethren!
Just like people, each cat is an individual with his or her own personality. There are introverted cats and extroverted cats, adventurous cats and cats that prefer to play it safe. A cat’s inherent personality plays a major role in determining how she or he relates to the world.
Learning about the various cat personalities can allow us as human companions to better understand the behavior of our feline friends, whether we’re trying to adopt a cat that matches our expectations or trying to better relate to the cats who are already part of our lives.
Recent research into cat behavior by numerous animal welfare and humane societies led to some revolutionary discoveries. By observing a cat’s level of boldness and response to novel stimuli along with a cat’s degree of independence vs. gregariousness, researchers were able to identify 9 distinct personality types in cats.
Cats fell into 3 primary personality categories based on the level of boldness or courage they displayed while encountering new stimuli:
- Quiet shy cats
- Solid companion “middle of the road” cats
- Adventurous confident cats
Researchers also discovered that cats displayed varying of independence or gregariousness within each of the primary categories. This lead to 3 sub-categories within each primary category, and therefore 9 total personality types.
- Private Investigator: Shy cats who keep to the sidelines, these cats prefer watching the world to interacting. They may be seen one minute, only to vanish to their favorite quiet space the next. When these cats come looking for you, they really want your love and attention.
- Secret Admirer: Shy cats who take their time getting to know new people, new surroundings, or new situations; however, they become very loyal to a companion or family and are very affectionate once they get comfortable.
- Love Bug: Consummate lap cats, these kitties love nothing more than to sit quietly in a lap, kneading and purring contentedly.
Middle of the Road Cats
- The Executive: Executive cats are the quintessential curious cats and like to explore. They adapt well to new circumstances without needing much reassurance from their human companions. These cats are good matches for people who don’t want a high-maintenance pet.
- Sidekick: Sidekicks are a mixture of both friendliness and self-reliance. They like to play and be stroked, but they also like their solitude. Sidekicks don’t look to explore, but typically aren’t scared of new situations when they arise. These cats are steady companions on the road of life.
- Personal Assistant: PAs are cats that are both high-maintenance and co-dependent. They are known for being “helper cats”. PAs help with the computer, a book, papers on a desk or even supper, opening kitchen cabinets to see what caused their human companions to do the same.
- MVP: MVPs are resourceful, savvy cats that are not fazed by the new or unique. They like to entertain themselves, but a scratch behind the ears by their human companion is also welcome.
- Party Animal: These cats love to play and explore their world. While Party cats love to play with their human companions, anything around them can become a toy – crumpled paper, pencils, caps from soda bottles. Party cats love to have fun, and can end up in some funny situations. YouTube cat videos anyone?
- Leader of the Band: These are vocal, confident cats. Fearless of new situations, Leader of the Band cats may end up leading their human companions into adventure. They talk to their human companions and show lots of affection.
Where do your cats lie on the “purr”sonality spectrum? I have 5 cats – a Private Investigator, a Secret Admirer, a Sidekick, a Personal Assistant, and one who seems to be cross between a Sidekick and a Personal Assistant. Knowing their personality types has made it a lot easier to understand and adapt to each cat’s individual traits – just like it does with a roommate, spouse, or child.
In his famous poem The Naming of Cats, T.S. Eliot wrote:
“The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES”.
Cats have the name we give them, the name of their personality type, and then their private inner name known only to themselves 😊. Perhaps by knowing 2 of the 3 names by which a cat identifies him or herself, we might be better able to understand their point of view and their world as they live alongside us in ours.
- Adventurous Cats: Living Nine Lives to the Fullest by Laura J. Moss, 2017, Workman Publishing Company.
- ASPCA’s Meet Your Match Feline-alities (http://aspcapro.org/resource/saving-lives-adoption-programs-behavior-enrichment/meet-your-match-feline-alities)