The cat is impulsive and domineering: true or false?

The cat is impulsive and domineering: true or false?

Cat traits aren’t always very flattering. Opportunistic, lazy, ungrateful, but also unpredictable and bossy: so many adjectives that are sometimes used to describe them. So are cats really psychopaths with sharp claws and teeth that we should be wary of? Let’s talk about it in this article.

A study that associates certain character traits with cats

At the end of 2014, a study was conducted by researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, in collaboration with the Bronx Zoo in the United States. It focused on the personality of our beloved domestic cats. The conclusions of this study are not necessarily flattering for felines: they indicate that Domestic cats share personality similarities with Africans, especially in being impulsive and neurotic. Despite their domestication, they would also constantly seek domination.

In reality, their hunter and predator instincts logically induce certain character traits in common with wild felines, such as a certain aggressiveness and unpredictability.

But they can be more or less marked depending on the cat and this does not prevent our companions from also showing, in parallel, very gentle character traits. The aim of the study was above all to better understand our animals and to remind people that cats have specific needs for their well-being. However, these remarks seem to have been slightly diverted and deliberately accentuated. Let us also remember that this study was done almost 10 years ago and that our knowledge has been constantly evolving since then.

Dominance: a preconceived idea?

Feline etiology allows us to study the behaviors of our cats to better understand them. It is a science in motion, which constantly provides us with new data and interpretations. This is the case with the “myth” of dominance which more and more theories consider unfounded. The vocabulary is also evolving: we no longer speak of training or subduing an animal, but rather of educating and training it. We speak less and less of “master”, but rather of human, owner (in the sense of “holder”) or adopter.

Let us recall that a dominant character is defined as exercising authority over someone. It includes tyrannical, intimidating, and aggressive behaviors. However, Some experts claim that there is no real hierarchy in cats… Being solitary animals that do not usually live in long-term social groups, they do not need to set up a pyramidal organization. There will therefore be no concept of dominance or submission. If they do not do it with their congeners, cats are even less likely to do it with other species, such as humans or other animals.

It would be, as is often the case, a problem of perception: By anthropomorphism, we attribute to animals reactions that are human. when they are not associated with their species. This is the case, for example, when we talk about “revenge”: if your cat peed on the bathroom mat after being scolded for something “stupid”, it is not because he is personally angry with you and is seeking to harm you or punish you in response. It is more likely that seeing you raise the time and get angry could have created misunderstanding, and therefore stress, which led to this marking behavior. Remember that marking is not only used to say “this territory is mine”, but to communicate with other cats and to calm down and feel secure.

So, we wrongly think that certain behaviors of our cats reflect their dominance:

  • he drops an object and watches me pick it up
  • he lies down on my magazine
  • he lies on my head
  • etc.

In reality, all these situations are quite often linked to natural hunting instincts (“I check if the object is alive and if it is potential prey”), territorial marking (“I occupy the space by lying down here”), or simple well-being (“this place looks warm and comfortable”).

What about when several cats live together? They can then indeed compete for resources: food, bedding, toys, etc. But they would all be perfectly capable of setting up their own social codes and making compromises between them. What we can take for dominance is in fact very often marking behavior. If one cat takes the place of another cat, it is because it has a more marking character and is more “motivated”. It is neither dominant nor mean. Conversely, the other cat is not submissive or fearful, it is just less marking and has a calmer temperament.

On the other hand, if you notice certain character traits at the same time in your cat, such as uncleanliness, sudden aggression, untimely meowing, and more frequent markings, this may indicate a health problem. We therefore advise you to discuss it with your veterinarian. Incomplete weaning, poor socialization or trauma can also explain certain hostile behaviors in a feline, which will wrongly be taken for dominance.

Common personality traits among felines

Like all species, Cats have certain temperaments that are found in almost all individuals.. These are part of their instincts.

  1. Cats are quite independent. This does not mean that they do not appreciate company, but rather that they need moments of peace and solitude. The presence of a human, a fellow cat or another animal constantly with them is not necessary for their well-being. But this does not prevent them from being social animals and needing interactions to feel good. The degree of independence also depends on many other criteria that build the cat’s personality.
  1. Cats are territorial. They are indeed animals that will need to limit their space to feel safe. To do this, they will use different visual and olfactory marking signals (via pheromones) to communicate with other cats: scratching, urinating, occupying space, etc.
  1. Cats are animals of routine. Routine is indeed reassuring and secure for cats, which is why changes in their habits can create stress and lead to behavioral problems. A move, a change in diet, the departure or arrival of a new member in the household… so many elements that can upset the landmarks of the domestic feline.
  1. Our cats are curious. Naturally, they will be intrigued by anything new.

But a personality that depends on many criteria

A cat’s personality varies from one individual to another, as it depends on many factors..

  1. The breed can determine certain temperaments. It is also defined by a set of physical characteristics, but also specific behaviors. The cat inherits certain instincts transmitted by its lineage (its ancestors). For example, the Bengal and the Abyssinian are naturally very active cats, while the Ragdoll is considered rather calm.
  1. Weaning. If done poorly or incompletely, it can have an impact on the cat’s psychological development and therefore on its behavior.
  1. Socialization. This is a learning process that can condition many of the cat’s character traits: if it has lived in a restricted environment, without much interaction, it will be more likely to become a fearful and distrustful cat. A stimulating and socially rich environment will, conversely, encourage the animal’s curiosity and boldness.
  1. Their personal history. This includes their experiences, whether good or bad, any trauma they may have suffered (violence, abandonment, etc.), their health problems, etc.

In conclusion, if the cat has some specific character traits, dominance is not one of them. Impulsiveness can be, for its part, associated with its natural reactions as predators. Then, each cat will have its own character.

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