Five aspects that influence the character of a cat.

Cats have striking personalities. Whether affectionate or aloof, brave or shy, active or jovial. Or a little bit of everything. But what influences the character of a cat?

Braun-weiße Katze auf dem Arm, wird liebkost

Why are some cats more trusting than others? Is the cat personality innate or shaped by its environment? The answer is: both. Origin, disposition, and positive and negative experiences. They all influence the behaviour of a cat. But can you predict the character of a young cat? A little bit – if you know the decisive factors.

Character question 1: The sex

Male cats are roughnecks, and female cats are bitches. These are the well-known prejudices. In fact, there are some characteristics that are fundamentally different in both sexes. For example, males – even ones that have been neutered – are often more active than females, roam more extensively, and usually cover longer distances. If you find it difficult to cope with your outdoor cat occasionally staying out for a night or more, you may want to consider this fact when deciding whether to get a male or female. Male cats also have different play behaviours than females. Whilst females tend to play hunting games (this is in their nature as providers of the offspring) males tend to play with each other and measure their strength. They can cope more easily with roughness.

Character question 2: The cat father

Scientists have observed that the character of the father is also reflected in his offspring. Because the male cat does not take care of raising the kittens, his influence is clearly in the genes. The offspring of friendly, trusting males are thus also more sociable. On the other hand, restrained, shy fathers, tend to produce rather shy offspring. In theory, the genetic influence of the cat father is 50%. However, in reality, it is probably lower. This is because, unlike the cat father, who influences the personality of the offspring only through his genes, the mother also influences the kittens through her upbringing and exemplary effect. The genes of the father can thus be overruled by the behaviour of the mother.

Character question 3: Impact on humans

If cats are not socialised with humans from an early stage, they will have a harder time being friendly and trusting to their owners later on. So if the cats grow up on a farm with little contact to humans, you will have a harder time turning it into a trusting and cuddly house cat. This also applies to the question: Free access or not? A cat that has grown up in almost unrestricted freedom will always feel an urge to go outside. So if you want to keep your cat exclusively indoors, you should look for a kitten that has been raised indoors.

Character question 4: Family connection

Many prospective cat owners want their kitten to join them as early as possible. They are convinced that the little feline friend will bond with them most intensively that way. But the opposite is the case. The longer a young cat is allowed to grow up with its mother and siblings, the stronger its character. This also means that it is more open to new contacts. So if you leave your kitten with its family for as long as possible, it will learn more social skills. This increases your chances of winding up with a self-confident, balanced, and stress-resistant cat. This also facilitates the socialisation with a cat already living in your household. You should ideally choose a cat that is already 12–14 weeks old.

Character question 5: The cat breed

That character can be derived from breed has long been suggested by the experiences and observations of breeders and owners. Researchers at the University of Helsinki have now also been able to scientifically prove that certain behaviours are typical of certain breeds. Nineteen different cat breeds were examined in the study. Their results: British Short-hair and Persian are clearly the most peaceful breeds. The former in dealing with people and the latter in behaviour among conspecifics. Turkish Van and Angora showed the highest aggression potential – both towards their owners and other cats. Korat and Devon Rex were especially sociable towards people; British Short-hair ranked last in this category. The overall most psychologically stable breed was the British and European Short-hair. Quite different from Persian or Oriental breeds, which are most prone to behavioural problems.

Our conclusion: Every cat is unique. Certain basic characteristics can nevertheless be identified. Shy, affectionate, very active, or rather calm. Some things can be influenced by the environment and training. But many things cannot. In some ways, it remains a mystery why your cat is the way it is. If you are considering a new cat, you now know some factors that you can consider when choosing your favourite.