Is Your Cat a Good Match For Your Household?

Deciphering feline personality.


Did you wish for a lap cat but adopt one that doesn’t happen to feel very sociable toward people? Did you want a laid back pet but find yourself living with a cat who is more aggressive than you would have preferred, or perhaps exhibits stress through excessive grooming and litterbox issues such as inappropriate elimination? Did you bring in a second cat to befriend one who was already there, only to find that the new cat isn’t into other felines?

More than 30 million households in the U.S. have cats, yet the fit between people’s personalities and those of their cats is not always entirely comfortable. Researchers at the University of Helsinki are at the beginning of improving the odds that the right cat will end up with the right people by identifying distinct personality/behavior traits in felines.

They asked the owners of more than 4,000 cats to respond to 138 prompts to help identify clear-cut personality traits. Survey respondents had to check off answers ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”

In the end, seven clear-cut personality/behavior traits were identified:

  • Activity/playfulness
  • Fearfulness
  • Aggression toward humans
  • Sociability toward humans
  • Litterbox issues (relieving themselves in inappropriate places, precision issues in terms of litterbox cleanliness)
  • Excessive grooming

(The last two could indicate a cat who is prone to feeling stressed.)

Improving adoption compatibility

The researchers identified which cats are most prone to have certain personality traits depending on their breed. Of course, that’s not very helpful to people choosing a cat from, say, a shelter. Most cats are a mix of breeds, and most shelters — and cat owners — don’t know their cat’s breed makeup. So how can this new information help? The research codifies the things that need to be considered to assess a cat’s personality, whether it is a purebred cat or an alley cat.

More investigation is needed, the scientists say, but this is a solid start. In the future, it should become more possible to pair, say, people who want to play with their pets with cats who particularly enjoy the environmental enrichment of games and training. Likewise, cats identified as fearful may perhaps be paired with people who enjoy what the researchers call a “peaceful lifestyle” and would also be willing to provide ample hiding places and escape hatches for their not-so-bold pets.

We are glad for this step forward. Matching a dog with the right household is an effort made routinely. It is time for that consideration to be extended to cats, both for the improvement of feline welfare and the improved satisfaction of cat “parents.”

Breed Personality Tendencies

Most fearful: Russian Blue, followed by Landrace shorthair, House cat, and Turkish Van

Least fearful: Abyssinian, followed by Burmese, Korat, and Sphinx & Devon Rex

Most aggressive towards humans: Turkish Van, followed by House cat, Landrace longhair, and Maine Coon

Least aggressive toward humans: American Curl, followed by Abyssinian, Somali, and Oriental

Most sociability toward cats: Oriental, followed by Burmese, Korat, and Siamese & Balinese

Least sociability toward cats: Turkish Van, followed by Somali, Abyssinian, and Maine Coon

Most sociability toward humans: Siamese & Balinese, followed by Burmese, Oriental, and Siberian & Neva Masquerade

Most active/playful: Persian & Exotic, followed by European, American Curl, and British

Most active/playful: Bengal, followed by Abyssinian, Ocicat, and Turkish Angora

Least active/playful: Persian & Exotic, followed by Ragdoll, British, and House cat

Litterbox issues: Norwegian Forest Cat, followed by Turkish Van, Bengal, and Siamese & Balinese

Least likely to have litterbox issues: Korat, followed by British, Abyssinian, and American Curl

Excessive grooming: Siamese & Balinese, followed by Ragdoll, Russian Blue, and Bengal

Least likely to engage in excessive grooming: American Curl, followed by European, Siberian & Neva Masquerade, and Maine Coon


  1. I personally disagree with these “assessments “. I have owned many of these breeds and never had the issues that these folks are saying they had.
    Never once had aggression problems with Turkish Vans nor Maine Coons.

  2. I strongly disagree with your assessment of the Maine Coon! As a Hobby Breeder and Cat Show Exhibitor for 26 years, with over 60 International Winners (including Best All Breed Kitten, Best All Breed Champion, highest-scoring MC Female Champion in the history of TICA), and cats placed in multiple countries on four continents, I can categorically state that your conclusion is bogus and not reality-tested.

  3. your completely forgot the good old American short hair or mix breed. I have had several (12 in my life time) far few health, behavior, and aggression issues then any breed ( 4 of those ) cat i ever owned. My current one is playful health and as sweet as can be. She is nosy wanting to be included in all the family activity. So concerned when someone is hurt or on emotional pain wanting only to comfort. To us the perfect little fur baby.

  4. I, too, strongly disagree with your assessment of the Maine Coon. They are dog-like cats and really connect with their humans and are the most trusting cats I’ve had the pleasure of owning. I’ve have several over time and not one was ever aggressive. They are docile, affectionate and funny. They follow me around the house and want to be close. I love this breed.


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