Trying to understand our cats is key to keeping them happy and healthy. But no matter how much we learn to read feline body language or try to interpret the sounds cats make, cats still remain a little mysterious. A study at the University of Edinburgh looked at both wild and domesticated cats to compare the cats’ personalities. The results may surprise you.

A comparison of the personalities of domestic cats and wild cats

The study included 25 Scottish wildcats from three zoos, 100 domestic cats from two shelters, 16 clouded leopards from two zoos, 17 snow leopards from three zoos, and 21 lions from 2 zoos. The cats were evaluated with a 45-item personality survey based on previous feline personality surveys and a human personality questionnaire.

The study then compared the personalities of domestic cats with the wild cats. It turned out that domestic cats have very similar personalities to lions, with their strongest traits being dominance, impulsivity, and neuroticism.

Neuroticism in domestic cats

When researches took a closer look at neuroticism in domestic cats, they found “the highest loadings on anxious, insecure, and tense, suspicious, and fearful of people”.

There are, of course, limitations to the study. Researchers rated the cats according to human personality traits, and while some of that may translate, cats are, of course, not small humans.

What does all of this mean for our house cats?

Researchers also only looked at cats in captivity, but I believe that’s actually why the study has important implications on how to make lives better for both domestic cats and cats in zoos. To me, it’s proof of just how important environmental enrichment is for cats both big and small.

Then again, neuroticism may explain a whole lot of feline behavior that we have no other explanation for.

Allegra and Ruby don’t have much use for this study. Allegra says she doesn’t need a study to know that Ruby thinks she’d like to rule the world. Ruby thinks Allegra is slightly neurotic because she tends to be a little anxious at times.

Do you think your cats are neurotic?

For more information about the study, pleas visit the Winn Feline Foundation Blog.

8 Comments on Are Cats Neurotic?

  1. I have an adopted rescue male cat named Pedeo….He is 8 yrs.old. He is anything BUT neurotic. He is VERY Social. I adopted him at age 1 1/2 yrs.
    I talk to him, and when I call him he comes running. He greets everyone at the door, smells everything, and snoops in the bags of technicians.
    I have learned to discern his meows.- especially when hungry.
    He is a bit bossy when hungry.
    I live in a condo so he is an indoor cat…….but I take him for a walk in my hallway every evening. He is so disciplined. I use a walker and he walks right along with me, no leash.
    You might say I love my Pedeo and he is a darling cat.

  2. I really worried about uprooting my 2 cats who had lived in the same environment all their lives (9 and 10 years respectively) when it finally was time to move us into a smaller and better place. They screamed all the way in the backseat of my car, from one location to the other which I had to listen to for 1 hour and a half. By the time we got to the new place we were all exhausted. It took them all of three days to adapt to the new surroundings. I was greatly relieved and not a little surprised. You never know with cats, right?

    • You are so right, Monica – you never know with cats. Moving with cats is so stressful, I’m glad yours adapted relatively quickly.

  3. -Domestic cats: Dominance, Impulsiveness, Neuroticism (anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy, frustration, jealousy, and loneliness)
    Wow, that does describe almost every cat I have ever known!

    My cats are certainly all three, but not at the same time!

  4. Very interesting article; does anyone EVER understand cats – we have four and they are all very different. One of our former cats was decidedly neurotic, and one of the current ones is slightly that way – cats hate change don’t they and anything changes in their routine they don’t like at all…. having said that they are also adaptable when they need to be in my experience. To me it shows there ain’t no understanding of them and one shouldn’t even try… but I repeat, it’s an interesting article.

  5. The study was done on captive cats. I do believe a cat in captivity would display more neurosis than a cat in a good home.I do think cats are neurotic to one degree or another but, I think cats are very hard to study because in order to get a true read on them they need to be in their own territory. My 3 cats are so ‘chill’ but, if something changes in this environment then, yes, they are neurotic. My first cat, Ziggy was comfortable anywhere with anyone, he didn’t even flinch during an earthquake when all my other animals were running for cover.

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