Cats are strange and curious creatures.
Have you ever wondered whether your feline friend is a psychopath? Particularly when their pupils dilate, leaving their eyes almost entirely black as they prepare to pounce?
Well researchers have created a new survey to determine just that at the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. It can be taken here.
“It is likely that all cats have an element of psychopathy,” Rebecca Evans, one of the researchers, told McClatchy News in a statement. Some cats might score higher than others in the survey’s psychopathy scale, according to Evans.
“We believe that like any other personality trait psychopathy is on a continuum,” she noted.
The questionnaire emerged from the researchers’ new study published in the Journal of Research in Personality’s December issue.
They used the Triarchic Model of Psychopathy, which measures psychopathic tendencies in humans by looking at the characteristics of boldness, meanness and disinhibition.
Researchers surveyed 549 cat owners in a questionnaire to determine whether their cat displayed those behaviors and, if so, to provide examples, according to the study.
Certain questions included: “My cat hides and jumps out on people/animals (e.g. from behind corners, doors, worktops),” or “My cat torments his/her prey rather than killing it straight away,” and “My cat displays sudden mood changes (e.g. purrs when being stroked but suddenly bites).”
Based on the results, researchers found the three triarchic factors of psychopathy were relevant to the personality of cats.
However, they identified two additional factors: pet-unfriendliness and human-unfriendliness.
Because of this, the researchers created a new “CAT-Tri+” questionnaire to “test owners’ perceptions of the cat-owner relationship with respect to cat psychopathy,” the study said.
This survey “could be used by owners to highlight undesirable behaviours affecting the cat-owner relationship,” according to Evans.
The research revealed that “owners with meaner and bolder cats reported a lower quality cat-owner relationship,” she noted.
“Not all factors of psychopathy negatively affect the cat-owner relationship. Owners with more disinhibited and pet-unfriendly cats reported a higher quality cat-owner relationship.”
The CAT-Tri+ questionnaire can inform cat owners and even shelter workers about behavioral interventions, according to Evans.
“For example, a cat that has a high score on the ‘boldness’ scale may benefit from large cat trees and tall scratching posts, as the CAT-Tri+ items suggest that a bold cat enjoys exploring and climbing,” Evans explained.
Such environmental enrichment could “reduce agonistic behaviours towards people, other pets, and possessions.” In terms of animal shelters, workers could use the questionnaire to assess how well a certain cat is suited for a particular household.
“For example, a cat that has a high score on the ’pet-unfriendly’ scale may benefit from being rehomed in a household where there are no other pets,” Evans said.
Additionally, professionals such as veterinarians and cat behaviorists could use a feline owner’s responses to the questionnaire to develop strategies to manage undesirable behaviors in cats.
Evans described felines as living “in the moment” and said they “only respond to positive or negative reinforcement that occurs almost immediately after the behaviour.
” When asked what inspired Evans and her colleagues to conduct their research, she said there were many sources given they’re all “crazy cat ladies.”
“Some of us study non-human animals (primates, rodents), and others psychopathy in humans…so we decided to join our forces, and see if psychopathy is something that is relevant to our feline friends too,” she said.
The varying personalities of the researchers’ own cats also inspired their work.
Evans said her cat, named Gumball, scored highly on the disinhibition scale — “which means he can be quite vocal, proximity-seeking and excitable!”
“Personally, I am also interested in how owner perceptions of psychopathy in their cat can affect the cat-owner relationship,” she added.
Elements of psychopathy were important adaptive qualities for cat ancestors to hunt food, mark their territory and to seek out mates, according to Evans.
Evans and her colleagues are running a new survey that includes the CAT-Tri+ questionnaire alongside additional variables that the researchers are interested in that can be taken here.
On the researchers’ new Twitter page, people can stay up to date with future cat-related research that they might be able to participate in.