Cats are NOT Psychos!
A recent study of cat behavior psychology suggests that all cats are psychopaths of varying degrees. We say HOGWASH!
by Linda Hall and Rita Reimers, Cat Behavior Experts
Here at the Cat Behavior Alliance, we love reading articles and stories about cats. If it is feline related, we want to know about it.
But for the first time, we regret reading a research article. In fact… we are MAD!
Recently, some researchers did a “study” and concluded that cats are basically all psychopaths. (You can read their questionnaire here.)
We absolutely couldn’t imagine how anyone could make that determination! All of the classes we’ve taken and things we’ve read have taught us the exact opposite. We used Rita’s sweetest kitty, aptly named Sweetie Pie, to answer the questionnaire, and she scored very high. According to this study, she’s a psychopath!
The problem is, it’s a highly flawed study!!!
The researchers gave a questionnaire to roughly 2,000 humans to rate their cat’s behavior, and that is where we think they went wrong. They were measuring a human’s perception of their cats, and not the actual cats. Hey! We’ve all heard it said that “perception is reality,” but it is only the reality of the person who is perceiving it.
Let’s take a look at question #28, for example. “My cat damages things, (e.g. scratches furniture, pushes objects off surfaces).” When your cat scratches up your sofa, your perception may be that your cat is a jerk! That cat just destroyed a piece of furniture you value and paid a lot of money for! You give him scratchers but he “chose” your sofa.
The Reality of Cat Psychology
In reality, your cat has a natural instinct to scratch for many reasons. He HAS to scratch. He may scratch that post you bought for him, but he also sees something over there that feels good to scratch. That thing just happens to be your sofa! He doesn’t see a difference. Your cat does not value furniture in the way we do. He has no clue about money or what you spent! That doesn’t make him psycho. It makes him annoying!
Questions 9 and 10 ask if your cat will hunt a mouse or bird and then, will it play with the mouse rather than immediately kill it. Cats don’t see species the way we do. They have three categories. You are either a predator (you might eat me!), prey (I can eat you!) or part of my social structure. A small creature like a mouse falls into the category of prey and they must catch it. They may not eat it if they are well fed, but they still must get that prey. It isn’t a living being to your cat. It’s prey.
Other questions included cats who like to climb up high or watch out the window. Cats in nature are both predators and prey. They climb up high to observe, which is why we suggest you offer cat trees and high places for your cat to climb.
If you set your plate down with chicken on it, would your cat eat your food? Cats are driven by survival instinct. If your cat sees food out he likes, he will eat it. Would your cat chase a neighborhood cat out of your yard, hiss or growl at it? Most will! Again, this is nature as they try to protect their territory!
Every question can be explained by a natural instinct given to a cat at birth. The “naughty” behaviors like food stealing, aggressive behavior towards others and scratching your sofa can be corrected by a qualified cat behaviorist.
Human Psychology vs Feline Psychology
These questions may be a great start for observing human psychopathy but cats aren’t humans! In fact, according to this questionnaire, all of my children were psycho when toddlers. They destroyed my belongings. (Anybody else ever get red Kool-Aid spilled on their sofa?) They certainly liked knocking things off surfaces, just like cats. They had times of extreme neediness and some aggression. Those are normal behaviors for toddlers, just as these are normal behaviors for cats.
Here’s the deal! Cats often get a bad reputation. Many people believe cats don’t love and are anti-social. (Someone tell that to Karma, who is plastered against me right now!)
Can a Cat’s Behavior be Changed?
If your cat is exhibiting unwanted behaviors, we’re here to help! Just request an appointment here: SCHEDULE A CONSULT.
Your cat is willing to do anything to please you. He just has to be taught by you want is it you want him to do (and not do).
We have a two year old Longhair calico female that has attitude.Ive tried to introduce another cat I was wanting to add to our family twice but our girl goes mean.if a stray looks in the door our cat gets mad at us for days.she peters my daughter.she comes to me for food and treats and that’s it.Id love to hold her but can’t.she hates hugs period.its on her terms for attention she hates visitors runs and hides. Can her ways be improved?
They can! We would need more information but I would bet your kitty has high anxiety. Being hugged, etc puts kitty in a very vulnerable position. If a cat has higher anxiety they won’t want to be in that kind of situation.
If you want to do a session, put as much detail into the email as possible so we can work to fully understand her issues and make a plan. Then when we talk we will fine tune it with you and get you going forward!
Leslie Garrison says
My cat meows a lot and has been running around like a squirrel…..She has an upcoming appointment because she had a urinary infection in December……Background….She’s 4 and I adopted her in June 2020. We moved to Seattle in Dec 2020. I planned to move back to Virginia in 2021 because I didn’t like Seattle. My cat lived with my parents for 3 months in Chicago ahead of my intended move back to Virginia…. We’re now back in Virginia…. Just us living in my apartment
I love Virginia! It’s so beautiful! Congratulations on your move.
I’m glad you are starting with a vet visit. There are medical possibilities for this. Pain can cause this behavior certainly. If you get a clean bill of health from the vet, it may be behavioral.
Being ill can cause stress which can lead to behaviors. Even if the UTI is cleared up, the memory of the pain can lead to anxiety.
Without knowing all of the details I’d suggest as much routine as possible. We would have to determine what kitty is seeking and what leads to this behavior. Keeping a journal of when it happens, what happens and what happened immediately before would be helpful.
Remember if you need help you can request a session. Give as much detail as possible on the form because we take time to read and share our thoughts ahead of our session to be as prepared as possible.