Differences In Cats’ Personalities Are Reflected In Their Coping Styles
Just like humans, cats have different personalities. Researchers have now found that this also means that they respond differently to stress in unfamiliar environments. The research team looked at fifty-five adult cats to investigate if their personality at home would align with their reaction to stress when temporarily housed somewhere unfamiliar.
Using questionnaires, the researchers first collected information on cat personality traits from the cats’ guardians. This information helped them to categorize the cats into two different personality clusters. Cats in the ‘proactive’ personality cluster were rated as active, independent, curious, and social. Cats that were classed as ‘reactive’ on the other hand were calmer and shyer.
In the second stage of the study, the cats were housed in a new environment for three days to imitate conditions in an animal shelter or vet hospital. The researchers recorded hourly cat behavior as well as how the cats reacted to both familiar and unfamiliar people approaching them.
In the end, they found that the personality traits as reported by the cat caretakers corresponded with the cats’ behavior when they were housed in a cage. In confinement, cats in the proactive cluster were either resting or in a relaxed state. Reactive cluster cats, on the other hand, presented a lot of freezing behavior, were alert and tense, and spent much time in hiding.
The two personality clusters also reacted differently when people were approaching them. Cats with a proactive personality showed early signs of socializing and attention-seeking behavior with unfamiliar people. Reactive personality cats, however, were mostly hiding away and were slower to approach unfamiliar people. However, both personality groups took about the same amount of time to approach a familiar person.
Caretakers can use this information to improve their cats’ welfare. Depending on a cat’s individual personality, cat handlers can make decisions regarding cat housing and treatment. For reactive cats, for instance, providing enough hiding opportunities in vet hospitals and shelters would be essential.
Nevertheless, the research team acknowledged several limitations to their study. There were only a relatively small number of cats that took part, so the results might not predict every cat’s stress response accurately. Additionally, the researchers suggest that for future studies, cat behaviors should be observed and analyzed in the home as well. That way, categorizing cats into different personality clusters would be more objective and not rely too much on caretaker reports.