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Thursday, September 23, 2021

The cat’s meow

In an age of constant motion, utter uncertainty and continual change, the idea of raising a pet that will love you for decades to come is easily frightening to most college students. What better way to circumvent this fear than by adopting a cat, who will probably hate you no matter what you do?

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine professors Benjamin L. and Lynette A. Hart recently published a comprehensive guide for selecting the perfect feline companion, entitled Your Ideal Cat: Insight into Breed and Gender Differences in Cat Behavior. Detailing the differences in personality traits between the most commonly owned breeds, the Harts provide an easy-to-follow roadmap for selecting the right kitten to complement an individual’s personality.

Dr. Benjamin stated that his motivation to complete the work was based off of people’s lack of knowledge between the many breeds available today.

“When we think about people getting cats, they don’t think in terms of behavior differences,” Benjamin said. “They don’t even recognize the diversity of cat breeds out there. We think that people would like information to give them more thought to the kitten they’re going to adopt.”

Like dogs, different breeds of cat are reliably associated with varying personality traits, from aggression to cleanliness to vocalization. Unfortunately, most adopters choose their little balls of fur off of morphology instead of personality, sometimes to disastrous results.

Third-year landscape architecture major Sarah Skinker adopted two Bengal kittens in September of 2012 from the Veterinary Medicine Center Feline Research Facility. When it was announced in her freshman seminar that many of the Bengals used for research would likely be euthanized, she sympathized and rescued two beautiful babies with her roommate.

Unbeknownst to her, Bengal cats are a hybrid of domestic shorthair (the most commonly found house cat in the U.S.) and the Asian Leopard Cat, a wild feline that roams the forests of Asia. Thus, while Bengals are easily one of the most beautiful breed of cats, they are also the most energetic and wild.

“Immediately upon getting them as kittens they destroyed furniture, knocked over everything in sight, constantly ran around in circles around my apartment and got into everything they could,” Skinker said. “We thought it was a kitten phase, but never stopped.”

Over the next year, Skinker and her roommate attempted to live peacefully with their two feline housemates, but their energy and wild side proved too much to handle with the demands of college life. They resolved to giving the pair to family friends, where they’ve been living peacefully with more space for over a year. While Skinker was happy to have saved their lives, she admits she’ll think about the type of cat before jumping into another rough relationship.

That’s where the Harts and their handy guide come in.

The married duo was already familiar with the process of gathering viable data on personality traits after they published a similar guide on dogs. They surveyed feline veterinarians who treat a wide range of breeds multiple times on a daily basis. Over a period of two years, they gathered veterinary specialist’s opinions on each breed, ranking them on aggression, fearfulness, urine marking, vocalization, predation on songbirds and more for 17 different breeds. They then took the data and, with the help of a statistician, produced a useful visual system for comparing the spread of behavior for both gender and breed.

In the end, the Harts feel that finding the right cat is about empowering yourself with knowledge and finding a breed that suits your needs.

“People are going to live with a cat longer than a dog,” Lynette said. “It will be a rewarding relationship if they match your personality.”

Your Ideal Cat can be found at The Avid Reader extension, Avid Active on Second Street.

ADAM KHAN can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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