Someone recently sent me a link to an article in a UK newspaper stating that researchers had ranked cat breeds from the most to least affectionate and found that the Sphynx is the grand prize winner in the friendly-and-snuggly race. According to those researchers, mixed-breed cats — the vast majority of the feline population — are the most unfriendly.
I suppose that if I were an ordinary domestic cat cat, I’d be feeling pretty darn grumpy if I found out a bunch of scientists thought my proletarian breeding made me naturally less friendly and outgoing than my purebred kin.
The study was published in the November 2012 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, but the author and the researchers, who hail from the French ├ëcole nationale v├®t├®rinaire d’Alfort, seem to be more focused on dissing moggies than on doing real behavior research.
How did the study work? The scientists selected 129 cats from 14 breeds (including mixed-breeds) of a variety of ages and lifestyles. They then asked the cats’ caretakers to rate them on their reactions to family, friends, strangers, and vets, and each cat got a "friendliness score" based on the caretakers’ feedback. Purebreds came out on top, with owners who described their feline companions as "clingy" or "friendly," with the Sphynx being the cr├¿me de la cr├¿me. Alas, our standard-issue moggies, despite also being described as friendly, took last place in the friendliness test, because their caretakers also called them "independent."
Oh, dear! An independent cat? Well, I never! Excuse me while I stagger to the fainting couch.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see independence as the antithesis of friendliness. Just because I like somebody doesn’t mean I need to be joined at the hip with them, and I think independence produces a more fulfilling life. I imagine cats feel the same way.
The researchers suggested that the purebred cats’ friendliness could originate from the fact that that they have been bred for generations to create a mellow and easygoing disposition. Also, purebred kittens are generally kept with their mothers for at least 12 weeks, while most mixed-breed kittens are lucky if they get to stay with their mothers and littermates for the minimum weaning time of eight weeks.
So, am I going to go off on a tear and start dissing purebred cats? No! I have no problem with purebred cats raised by responsible breeders and adopted by responsible caretakers.
I’ve met several Sphynxes, and they certainly are among the most endearing and affectionate kitties I’ve ever met — but I’ve known plenty of grumpy purebreds, too. Tardar Sauce, the world’s grumpiest cat, clearly has at least some Ragdoll blood. Not only that, but almost every non-pedigree cat I’ve met has been friendly and affectionate.
Ultimately, it all comes down to environment. Any cat raised in a situation where she feels safe, has enough to eat, and has the opportunity to experience a lot of different stimuli will naturally be calmer and friendlier — that applies as much to plain-old domestic cats as it does to pampered purebreds. And if a Russian Blue or a Siamese found himself on the streets, he’d become just as bad-ass a feral cat as any mixed-breed would — and probably become just as fearful of humans, too.
What do you think? Are purebred cats really friendlier than their mixed-breed cousins? Who was the friendliest cat you’ve ever met? How about the least friendly? What do you think contributed to their attitudes? Join the conversation in the comments!