Cat Psychology 101
By Kimberly Blaker, August 2019 Issue.
What does it mean when your furry feline friend puffs its tail? What’s
the best way to handle your cat’s neuroticism? Why is your kitty scratching up
all of your furniture?
The truth is,
cats have darn good reasons for most of their behaviors, none of which are
intended to punish you or drive you crazy. So, the trick to prevent or remedy
problems is to better understand your cat. This will result in a more adjusted
cat and a peaceful coexistence between you.
Five Personality Traits
As most cat owners
can attest, cats definitely have their own personalities. Like humans, every
cat has a combination of traits that make up its unique personality. In fact,
researchers from the University of Australia published their fascinating
findings on cat personality in the journal, PloS ONE, in August 2017.
researchers refer to the cat traits as the “Feline Five.” Dominance,
agreeableness, extraversion, impulsiveness, and neuroticism are the traits that
blend to form a cat’s personality. The researchers explained that understanding
cat personality is helpful, so cat owners can better nurture their feline
• Dominant cats tend to bully or act aggressively toward
other cats. If you bring home a young kitten, discourage it from grabbing or
biting you or playing aggressively. This will help prevent it from growing into
a dominant cat. If you have multiple cats, feed them in separate areas to
reduce competition. Also, give your cats equal time with you to reduce the
possibility of jealousy. In addition, when your cats play together nicely,
reinforce it by giving them plenty of praise, petting, and treats.
are gentle, friendly, and affectionate toward people. So, what more could a cat
owner want? The truth is even an agreeable cat can have its drawbacks. Because
of their friendly, affectionate nature, an agreeable cat might often paw at you
for attention. If so, set up a routine for cuddling, which might help. Also, consider adopting an additional cat to
keep yours company. Just make sure it’s not too dominant.
• Extraverted cats possess self-control and are decisive
and persevere. At the same time, they tend to get bored easily and need plenty
of stimulation. Extroverted cats should have plenty of toys, human interaction
and, perhaps, other cats to play and socialize with.
Impulsive cats tend to be erratic and reckless. This often
results from a stressful environment. Factors that can cause your cat stress
include other pets in the home, young children, confinement, or lack of access
to hiding places or a litter box. Even insisting on interaction with your cat
can be stressful if it’s more interaction
than your cat wants. Resolving many of these issues is self-explanatory. So,
evaluate the situations that could be causing stress, and try to remedy them.
• Neurotic cats can
be fearful of people, anxious, insecure, suspicious, or shy. Offer these cats
additional hiding places, as well as quiet spaces. Also, just like with impulsive
cats, look for environmental stressors that might be aggravating your cat’s
The following are a few of the common signals and behaviors every cat
owner should understand.
When your cat meows, it’s usually asking for something. Although, it
could just be saying ‘hello.’ The more frequent and intense the meows get, the
more intent your cat is on getting you to respond. But, if the meowing is
continuous, particularly after trying to satisfy your cat’s needs, your feline
may be sick or injured and need to be seen by a veterinarian.
yowling can also be a sign of discomfort or illness. Cats yowl out of
worry when their territory is threatened, or they want to mate.
Some cats even
yowl when they’re bored. Many a cat owner has experienced this frustrating
sleep interruption. Since cats are nocturnal, try to combat this by helping
your cat adjust to a nighttime sleep schedule. Keep your cat awake more during
the day, particularly in the evening before bedtime. You can also leave out
food and water at night to pacify your bored cat.
Purring usually signifies contentment.
Although cats sometimes purr when they’re worried as well. You can decipher the
meaning by looking at your cat’s body language. A tense posture and ears laid
back most likely indicate worry.
Hissing, snarling, or growling is a clear
warning to back off, or else. When a cat feels threatened, it might scratch or
bite. So, remove the threat (such as your playful puppy or toddler)
Tails tell a tale
A cat’s tail
movement says a lot about what it’s thinking or feeling. When a cat sweeps its
tail widely, it’s annoyed or wants to be left alone. If a cat becomes very
agitated or frightened, its tail movement is intensified and sweeps back and
forth rapidly. Either cue indicates the cat wants to be left alone. The latter
cue also indicates it’s ready to flee or attack.
Cat’s tails can puff up too, which can be
for several reasons. If your cat’s tail puffs up with its ears erect and whiskers
pointed forward, the cat’s usually happy or having fun. But, when a bristled
tail points straight up or down, possibly coinciding with an arched back and
flattened ears, the cat is fearful. When the fur on a cat’s whole body puffs
up, the cat’s very angry and might even hiss. Cats sometimes do this to
intimidate. But it can also mean an attack is imminent.
Those destructive claws
If your cat still
has its claws, you’ve probably dealt with the frustration of snagged
upholstery, carpet, or drapes. But this is instinctive behavior cats do for
several reasons. First, it’s kind of like a kitty manicure. Cats do this to
shed the dead frayed layers and sharpen their claws. It’s also one of the ways
cats mark their territory. Finally, it’s a natural part of feline play and
To combat the
problem, give your cat a scratching post. Cats each have their own preferences
though. So, you might need to try a variety of shapes, upholsteries, and other
characteristics. Also, keep your cat’s claws trimmed. When your cat does
scratch on other objects, clap loudly so the cat stops.
Some cat owners opt for declawing. The American Association of Feline
Practitioners recommends against this. The procedure is much more invasive than
most people realize and can result in infection and extended pain during