Ask a Cat Lady: Will Kittens Have the Same Personality as the Cat Mom?

Mar 29th 2012  |   8 Contributions

Catster reader E asks: Is mamma cat’s temperament or personality a reliable indicator for the personality of the kittens?

Sarah Says: One of my favorite parts about fostering kittens is watching and nurturing the change from fearful and angry to eager and affectionate. One week they are hiding from me behind the toilet plunger, and the next they are trying to nurse off my earlobe.

Personality traits are hard to measure scientifically because most behaviors are learned from the mother, and she is a product of her own environment and experiences. Kittens spend much more time interacting with their mothers, so it’s difficult to pinpoint when fear or boldness is learned and when it’s inherited. Because sires (males) aren’t as involved with their offspring, you can see which traits were passed down genetically. Friendly sires will produce friendly offspring.

The optimal time for kitten socialization is up to twelve weeks of age. As they get older, it becomes increasingly difficult to convince them that humans are totally awesome. I like to sneak into the momma cat role by hand-feeding wet meat to kittens, cleaning their faces with damp cloths, and sneaking their momma's nipples into their mouths to remind them who’s boss. Pretty soon they are quirky winos trying to make a buck off the Internet by writing cute songs about themselves.

THE LYRICS:

Snowflakes 

By Sarah Donner

So many kittens a mother can make / Each one is special, like a snowflake

But it’s not just genetics -- environment can shape / The personality of each snowflake

Behavior is learned from mom if she’s on the scene / Poppa takes off to find a new queen

But if he was skittish, the kids will be too / And if he was ugly, well, they’ll still be cute

Kittens, you can change their mind / If you are patient and you are kind

Love them, get them socialized /They’ll come to you, you’ll be surprised

Their shyness can be revised / More like Jekyll, less like Hyde

Moms teach their kittens how to behave / When to be pussies and when to be brave

After twelve weeks, changes are rare / The letters are stuck in their Punnett square

Kittens, you can change their mind / If you are patient and you are kind

Love them, get them socialized / They’ll come to you, you’ll be surprised

Their shyness can be revised / More like Jekyll, less like Hyde

SOURCES: Feline Advisory Bureau, Messy Beast

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