As a cat behaviorist, the issue of cat individuality was always prominent in my mind. Whatever the "rules" for cats are, there will always be the odd cat that will break the rules and display a different behavior pattern. That said, when discussing feline individuality, it is also crucial to avoid thinking of cats as "little humans". They are certainly not that. They are cats, with their own unique abilities and limitations. The individuality comes across in a multitude of characteristics that are all cat.
Taking into account the amazing diversity of behavioral patterns in cats, researching and classifying them into various types is a monumental task. Scientists are trying to do just that, by observing feline behavior and looking into parameters such as activity levels, playfulness, hostility towards people, aggressive behavior in general, levels of vocalization and sociability. Researchers use observations done in behavioral laboratories and feral cat colonies. Some researchers even turn to cat owners, collecting data using questionnaires and interviews.
One question that researchers have been wondering about is to what extent personality types are genetically inherited. In fact, with separate lines of purebred cats, and well documented ones at that, researching separate genetic groups is relatively easy. So far, findings do support the notion that purebred cats tend to display certain behavioral traits more than others. Persian cats have been shown to be more docile, while Siamese are more active. While individuality still rules, and you can certainly find active Persian cats and sleepy Siamese, researchers do believe that genetics plays a strong roll in the shaping of the individual cat's personality.
So, how does this discussion help us as cat owners? Hopefully, the understanding that our cat truly is a unique individual in its own right. It should also help us accept our cat as it is and not try to fight its innate behavioral tendencies.
We tend to expect things from our cats, hoping that they will conform to some kind of cat image that we have in our minds. But it doesn't always happen this way. You may have been dreaming of an active, playful feline rascal, but your cat may turn out to be a couch potato; or, perhaps, you were hoping for a very friendly kitty, the kind that is always rubbing against your legs, but instead your cat is aloof and solitary by nature.
You need to accept your cat for what she or he is. Trying to fix behavior problems is one thing. Trying to make a cat change its nature to suit our own expectations, is a totally different thing that will stress your cat and could, in itself, lead to behavioral problems.
Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!