Cat Personality Update

Well, that was fast! When Karol and I sat down to talk about our cat survey, we discussed how many data points we’d need for it to be valid and successful. We figured if we got 200, that was at least enough to build on, and we planned on going through the data starting at the beginning of March.

Well, as of right now, we’ve got responses about 500 cats from over 300 cat owners. (22 hours after first posting it.)

So I’m here with a bit of an update to answer a few questions that have come up, and also to give you the first round of data. Let’s start with the data.

We ran the data back when we had 321 cats, so it’s been a few hours, but as of that time, the average cat scores for each of the five main personality traits were:

  • Conscientiousness: 5.19 (For people, hallmarks of Conscientiousness are thoughtfulness, goal setting, and organization, high levels of thoughtfulness, good impulse control, and goal-directed behaviors. A highly conscientious person will think ahead and be mindful of how their actions affect others. Someone scoring low in this area would typically be more messy, procrastinate, and have a much less structured schedule.)
  • Agreeableness: 5.39 (A person with a high score in Agreeableness is typically social, kind, affectionate, empathetic, and readily puts their trust in other people. They tend to cooperate with others. On the flip side, low scores are usually mainly interested in themselves. They’re competitive, and they can be manipulative.)
  • Neuroticism: 4.29 (Neuroticism is a word that has fallen out of favor the past few decades. Sometimes it’s now termed “emotional instability.” In people, it refers to someone whose personality is hampered by emotional or mental struggles: depression, mood swings, anxiety, and so forth. A person with high neuroticism has a lot of stress, worries, and gets upset easily. People with low scores are resilient, emotionally stable, and relaxed.)
  • Openness: 5.16 (People who score highly in this category are, as a rule, creative and keen to take on new challenges. They’re good at abstract thinking, have a broad range of interests, and like to try new things. Individuals with low scores prefer to stick to more traditional paths. They favor concrete thinking and convention.)
  • Extraversion: 3.87 (One of the most well-known of the Big 5 traits in people, extraverts are social, talkative, and assertive. They enjoy being around others and will insert themselves into the limelight. They also often speak without thinking and readily make a wide range of friends. Introverts need alone time to “recharge,” struggle to start conversations or make small talk, and dislike being the center of attention.)

You can find out your own cat’s scores for these by using the same test that’s in the survey. Just enter in the result for each question on this spreadsheet. (It’ll make a copy of it you can edit, though you will need a Google account to do it. Sorry–it was the easiest way I could think of to make it simple.) With your results for your own cat, you can see how he or she stacks up against other kitties. (For that matter, you can fill out that TIPI sheet with your own answers, and then see how your cat compares to you!)

We’ll continue to update those scores as we get more results. It’ll be interesting to see how much they change. Each score has a low of 1 and a high of 7. So generally speaking, it appears cats are fairly conscientious (at least in the eyes of their owners). This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we’re hoping to glean from this survey.

Now, to answer a few questions:

First, some of you have noted that the personality questions don’t always seem to have a perfect fit when it comes to cats. That’s okay, honestly. This is the first real attempt anyone’s made at exploring this area of research. All cat personality studies in the past (that I’ve found, at any rate) focus on developing tests that are tailor made for cats. We’re interested in comparing cats and humans, to see if there are any similarities or connections. It could be that years from now, we’ll look back at this first attempt at a test and laugh at how wrong-headed we were. That’s okay. We have to start somewhere.

Also, some of it is a limitation of the personality test itself. Even when humans are asked to rate themselves on a scale of 1-7 when it comes to “Extraverted, Enthusiastic,” there are going to be some people who feel the way they experience those two adjectives just doesn’t match up for them. Again, this is okay. This is a personality test that has a ton of research and support behind it. (It’s called the TIPI, in case you’re wondering: Ten Item Personality Inventory. It lets researchers measure the big five personality traits by only asking 10 questions, where most other surveys out there use dozens of questions. We wanted to keep things straightforward and simple for this first foray.)

How many cats are we trying to get results for? The current record is a bit over 2,800 for a study done in New Zealand a while ago. I’d love to get above that, because I’m a competitive person at heart. With humans, the TIPI has been administered millions of times. I don’t know that we can get to those numbers. Google Forms is probably going to cap us at 50,000 or so. If we get that high, that’ll be a good problem to have.)

Can you fill it out on behalf of a cat that has passed on? YES! We recognize people have beloved pets they knew so well they’ll never forget what they were like. We see no reason to limit this study to only the living.

In any case, I will continue to keep you posted. Please do keep sharing the survey. We’ve got results from 10 different countries so far, and just about every state. (It’s hard to check just now to be sure.) Onward and upward!

As a reminder, you can take the survey here:

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