By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a cat insurance and dog insurance agency.
When searching for a kitten or cat to adopt, how can you tell if your selection will be a lap lounger, a shy cat, or an adventure seeker?
Purebred cats tend to have certain characteristic personality traits, though individuals within breeds may be very different. With the typical shelter cat, personality clues may be linked to the shape of the cat’s face.
Kit Jenkins, program manager for PetSmart Charities, has spent more than 20 years in the animal sheltering world studying the behavior of cats and dogs. She has developed a theory of cat face geometry, based on the fact that feline faces usually fall into one of three physical shapes: square, round, or triangle. While genetics and life experiences play major roles in how cats think and act, Jenkins contends that personality is also influenced by a cat’s physical shape. Here’s how she describes the various types:
These cats are big and solid with square faces and bodies. Think Maine Coon. Jenkins dubs them the “retrievers of the cat world.” Eager to please, square cats tend to be affectionate and love to snuggle and give head-butts.
These cats sport flat faces, large eyes, circular heads, and rounded bodies. Think Persian. These types might be called the “lap dogs” of the feline world. They tend to be low-energy, easily frightened, submissive cats that gently display their affection to trusted family members.
These are sleek, long, lanky cats with big ears and faces that narrow at the nose. Think Siamese or Abyssinian. Jenkins calls them “the herding dogs of the cat world.” Triangle cats are busy, curious, smart, athletic, and very vocal. They thrive in active households.
Jenkins has shared her personality theory with shelter workers, animal trainers, and behaviorists all over North America. Animal behaviorists and veterinarians say her observations serve as another tool in helping people find a cat who meets their lifestyle and personality. Although just a theory, Jenkins’ observations have been supported by her peers, but to date, nothing has been published in a scientific journal.
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This article has been adapted from its original version in Arden’s book, The Cat Behavior Answer Book.