There is an old joke that cat owners start to resemble their feline companions. The reality is, cats do pick up cues from humans. Cats are observant, in addition to being born imitators. This is how they learn about the world around them.
Cats emulate the behavior and moods of their owners. Cats can naturally fall into step with human patterns surrounding food, sleep, and physical exertion. Felines also reflect the emotions of their owners, though. Nervous owners create skittish felines, and aggressive humans make defensive, irritable cats.
This must be considered when adopting a cat. Looking after a feline is not just about feeding it and changing its litter. Think about the physical and emotional impact you will have on a cat. A positive relationship leads to a strong bond and enhanced companionship.
Table of Contents:
Can Cats Get Their Personality from Their Owners?
Cats are natural imitators. Kittens replicate the actions of their mother, including eating, using the litter box, and verbalization. The habit remains in adulthood and a feline’s senior years. The more time a cat spends with its owner, the more similar it will behave.
There are two reasons for this imitation. Initially, the cat is looking to learn. In many cases, an owner takes the place of a cat’s mother. You become the feline’s primary caregiver. This means that cat assumes that you have valuable lessons to impart.
In addition, the cat is trying to understand you. Human behavior is as baffling and incomprehensive to a cat as feline actions are to us. By studying you, the cat is learning what makes you tick. This makes it easier to manipulate you into meeting the cat’s wishes.
Whatever you do, your cat is likely to repeat at some point. This can be a valuable tool for training but be mindful not to teach your cat bad habits. As explained by PLOS One, you should treat a cat like you would a young child. This includes leading by example.
Cats will mirror the activity levels of their owners. Breed will obviously also have some influence over this too. Abyssinians will be constantly on the move, while Persians are likelier to be docile and lazy. Your actions will have an impact, though.
If you live a low-key sedentary lifestyle, your cat will follow suit. This is fine in older cats. Senior felines will become less active anyway. Just ensure you are not flying in the face of a cat’s nature, and moderate food intake appropriately.
The opposite is also true. Owners with excitable, high-energy lifestyles will see this mirrored in their cats. If you are always on the go, your cat will follow you around. The cat will likely be more interested in play and exercise at all hours. This can be important to keeping a cat motivated to move as it ages.
As always, balance is key. Cats burn a lot of energy while active. Do not allow your cat to grow overstimulated, or risk muscular injury through excessive movement. Don’t encourage a cat to become lazy and listless either, though. This can lead to obesity and depression.
Sleeping patterns can be the biggest training challenge in cats. Cats are not nocturnal by nature but can be active after dark. This is because cats enjoy the peace and stillness of the night. Cats are free to roam and hunt without disturbance at this time.
According to Biological Conservation, cats that roam free display higher tendency to hunt and kill prey. This means a free-roaming cat is likelier to retain its core instincts. In many respects, these cats are more feral than domesticated.
If you keep your cat home at night, it will imitate your habits. As a result, the cat will behave more like a pet. The cat will even model its sleeping patterns on yours. It will quickly understand that it receives more attention during traditional waking hours.
This is not as simple as just inviting a cat to sleep with you, though. Some sleep training will be required. Build playtime, food and grooming into your cat’s routine an hour or two before you retire. This will leave the cat tired enough to sleep through the night.
Once you have mastered this, the cat will adopt your routine. It will take itself to bed when you do, and wake at a similar time. If you’re early to bed and early to rise, your cat will do the same. If you’re a night person that prefers to sleep in, the cat will mirror this routine.
One of the biggest cues that cats take from owners is food habits. As explained by Bulletin de l’Académie Vétérinaire de France, cats imitate their mother’s eating habits. As discussed previously, you have become the mother figure in your cat’s mind.
This has a simple meaning. When you eat, the cat will expect to eat too. Bear this mind while your cat is awake. Every time you raid the refrigerator for a snack, the cat will expect a treat too. Cats do not understand calorie counting and food allowances.
You also need to be mindful of what you eat. Many human foods are toxic to cats. Some, like chocolate, are thankfully uninteresting to cats. Felines cannot taste sweetness. Ensure your cat is not interested in unsuitable sustenance, though. Your cat may steal food.
Try to maintain ‘feeding windows’ for you both you and your cat. Avoid grazing in front of your pet. You’ll either be expected to share or will be seen as cruel for denying food. Feed your cat while you eat and minimize additional intake to avoid feline weight gain.
Cats will also follow human cues when it comes to elimination. You may find that, when you use the bathroom, your cat does the same. Using the facilities in your home reminds the cat that it should do the same.
Keeping a litter tray in the bathroom can speed up toilet training. Just be mindful of the moisture in a bathroom. This may lead to litter clumping, which can be dangerous.
You could try announcing your intentions to a cat. If you have a command related to the litter tray, call it before using the bathroom. The cat will quickly understand and empty its bladder or bowels.
This can be particularly useful before bed. Cats can make a lot of noise at night, including scratching at the litter box. If your cat doesn’t need to pee overnight, you have a better chance of remaining undisturbed.
Do Cats Take on Their Owner’s Personality?
Of potentially greater importance is the fact that cats mirror an owner’s personality qualities. Taking on human traits can make a cat charming company or a feline terrorist. It really depends on the environment the cat lives within.
Cats crave consistency in their environment as well as activity. As explained by Animal Cognition, felines are not entirely familiar with the human emotional spectrum. Human personality traits definitely rub off on cats, though.
Based upon the atmosphere that it lives in, a cat will respond in kind. All cats have their own, unique personality. Over time though, a bonded cat will behave more and more like an owner. As with activities, you must ensure that a cat adopts your more positive traits.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are common in cats. Though felines appear cool, calm and collected, they are often a bag of nerves. If an owner is nervous by nature, the cat will be skittish and jumpy. It is picking up on the ambience of a home and the persona of a primary caregiver.
Try not to reveal to your cat if you are feeling anxious. Cats do not understand the subtleties of your concern. Felines do not think about financial pressure, workplace stress or relationship problems.
If a cat senses you are anxious, it will assume that imminent physical danger is present. It will likely become increasingly jittery and look for a hiding place. Over time, this will take its toll on the cat. It will lose appetite and risk heart problems through constant stress.
Cats adopt stress and anxiety from owners more than any other personality trait. It’s unrealistic to expect a harmonious and stress-free life at all times. Do shield a cat as much as possible, though. If a cat becomes anxious, the problem can be impossible to reverse.
Anger and Dominance
Cats are dominant and territorial by nature. In the wild, if a cat sees something it wants, it will take it. These instincts are largely tempered in domesticated housecats. If you have a dominant, heated persona though, the cat will match this.
If you are having a bad day, keep it away from your cat. Felines respond best to calm, stable environments. Aggressive energy will take its toll on a cat. The animal will become cantankerous and defensive by nature, even when unprovoked.
Most of this will come from fear. Cats know how small they are compared to humans. This puts them on the constant defensive. If you are prone to stamping and yelling, cats feel the need to do the same. The cat wants to show that it is no pushover.
This also triggers a cat’s territorial instinct. The cat will feel insecure as it lives in a hostile environment. It will fight tooth and claw to gain and retain any territory or possessions. This creates a vicious cycle of daily struggle for dominance between human and feline.
Order and Neatness
As cats love routine, they also dislike chaos. If you live in a neat and orderly environment, it will be reflected in feline behavior. Your cat will become equally methodical, and likely more obedient.
If you live a more anarchic life, expect your cat to do the same. The cat will do whatever it feels in the moment. This can lead to unwelcome behaviors, including attention-seeking through negative actions. If your life lacks structure, the cat will respond accordingly.
We can actually learn a lot from cats in this instance, though. Cats tend to live in the moment. If a cat is purring in your lap, enjoying petting, it is entirely present. Nothing matters as long as you’re still stroking.
Try to follow your cat’s example in this instance, embracing a moment of calm. This way, you can take the time you need to organize your thoughts. This will likely lead to a more structured lifestyle. This will be reflected in your cat’s moods and persona.
Affectionate owners will typically lead to more loving cats. Felines know when they are being merely tolerated and when they are welcome. The latter is far likelier to be replicated with rubbing and bunting.
While cats are independent, they are not averse to being social. If you have a warm, affectionate personality, your cat will mirror this. The cat will feel like part of the family and behave accordingly. It knows that it is loved and feels safe expressing similar sentiment.
Do Cats Mimic Their Owner’s Voice?
Some cats also imitate an owner’s voice. Studies are still ongoing into this, including whether cats actually have regional accents. What is beyond doubt is that cats often respond to human conversation and tone.
If you meow at your cat, it will likely meow back. This is the cat acknowledging your attempts to communicate and responding. Even if you speak in human words, your cat is likely to reply. Cats enjoy being acknowledged and communicating with humans.
Cats will respond to the energy in your voice, too. If you speak to your cat in a cheerful, happy voice, it will chirp in response. This is the cat matching your happiness and contentment.
If you sound nervous or agitated, the corresponding meow will be lower and elongated. This, again, is the cat matching your vocal energy. The cat thinks there is something wrong based on your voice. It will communicate in an appropriately solemn tone.
Keep this in mind when talking to your cat. Remember the golden rule; give a cat reason to be afraid and it will worry. Keep your tone light, and ideally high-pitched. According to Phonetika, cats associate higher pitch with reduced threat and respond better to such sounds.
The relationship between humans and cats is symbiotic. Cats learn a lot from owners, imitating behavior. We can also follow the lead of our cats though, including how to enjoy the moment. A strong bond between human and cat be life-changing for both parties.