A new comprehensive questionnaire for measuring feline personality and behaviour has been developed by researchers at the University of Helsinki. Seven personality and behaviour features were discovered in a sample of over 4,300 cats covering 26 breed groupings, with considerable variances between breeds. Cats are the most popular pets, and feline behaviour is increasingly being studied as a result of a variety of behavioural issues. Personality, in addition to behavioural qualities, is a fascinating topic because it has been linked to behavioural issues.
“Cats' behaviour and personality are less well understood than dogs', and there is a necessity for identifying connected problems and risk factors. To screen out aberrant behaviour and improve cat welfare, we need more knowledge and tools. According to Salla Mikkola, a PhD researcher at the University of Helsinki and the Folkhälsan Research Center, “the most common behavioural issues connected with cats are aggression and inappropriate elimination.”
Seven feline personality and behaviour traits
A total of 138 statements were used to examine personality and behaviour in a questionnaire devised by Professor Hannes Lohi's study group. There were extensive sections on background and health-related information in the questionnaire. Factor analysis, among other methods, was used to process the data, resulting in the identification of seven personality and behaviour traits in total.
- Aggression towards humans
- Sociability towards humans
- Sociability towards cats
- Litterbox issues (relieving themselves in inappropriate places, precision in terms of litterbox cleanliness and substrate material)
- Excessive grooming
“While the number of qualities discovered in past research varies, among the traits identified in our study, activity/playfulness, fearfulness, and aggression are the ones that appear the most frequently in prior studies. Litterbox difficulties and excessive grooming aren't necessarily personality traits, but they can reveal a cat's stress sensitivity,” Mikkola adds.
Differences in the prevalence of traits seen between breeds
Individuals have distinct personalities, but breeds have distinct personalities as well. To put it another way, certain cat breeds have more personality and behaviour qualities than others.
“The Russian Blue was the most terrifying breed, while the Abyssinian was the least. The Bengal breed was the most active, while the Persian and Exotic breeds were the least active. The Siamese and Balinese were the breeds with the most obsessive grooming, while the Turkish Van rated significantly higher in hostility against humans and lower in sociability toward cats. Professor Hannes Lohi of the University of Helsinki and the Folkhälsan Research Center said, "We had already discovered the same phenomenon in a previous study."
At this time, the researchers want to emphasise that no pairwise comparisons between breeds have been made.
“We wanted to get a basic understanding of whether different breeds have different personality features. More complicated models will be used in future studies to investigate factors that influence characteristics and problematic behaviour. We'll evaluate the cat's age, gender, health, and a variety of contextual aspects in these models, in addition to its breed,” Mikkola says.
Assessing reliability and validity
Questionnaires directed to cat owners, for example, can be used to study feline behaviour and personality. These questionnaires can track feline behaviour over time and in ordinary situations, which is impossible to do with behavioural exams. Furthermore, cats do not always behave in test conditions in the same manner they do in real life. Because of their subjective nature, the questionnaires' reliability must be determined before the data can be used further.
“Our study is the most comprehensive and substantial survey to date on a global scale, and it gives excellent potential for future research. Prior feline behavioural surveys' reliability hasn't been tested in this way, and they aren't as detailed as this one. “Establishing reliability is critical to justifying subsequent investigations and allowing for the accurate identification of numerous risk factors,” adds Lohi.
The researchers contacted cat owners who had completed the questionnaire one to three months before, asking them to do it again or to have another adult living in the same household complete the questionnaire for the same cat. The purpose was to determine the questionnaire's consistency over time and among respondents. It was feasible to assess the questionnaire's reliability over time and amongst respondents using two more datasets gathered using this manner.
“We discovered that the responses offered for the same cat were highly comparable, and that the personality and behaviour features were reproducible and trustworthy by comparing the responses. We also looked at the questionnaire's validity, or if it measures what it claims to assess. “The questionnaire worked well in these regards as well,” Mikkola explains.
Lohi's team's research will allow them to pinpoint genetic, environmental, and personality elements that influence problematic feline behaviour.
Reference: Mikkola S, Salonen M, Hakanen E, Sulkama S, Lohi H. Reliability and Validity of Seven Feline Behavior and Personality Traits. Animals. 2021;11(7):1991. doi:10.3390/ani11071991
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