It’s easy to throw the psychopath label at our furry feline friends when they’re doing something bizarre, like batting a terrified mouse or fighting each other from halfway up the Christmas tree. But now there’s a scientific survey — and an actual test you can take online — measuring 46 kitty behaviors that may reveal your cat’s level of psychopathy.
Scientists at the UK’s University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University developed the test, and published a study about it this month in the Journal of Research in Personality. The survey isn’t meant to slap your cat with a disturbing diagnosis, but to find out how kitty’s personality affects its relationship with its owner.
“It is likely that all cats have an element of psychopathy as it would have once been helpful for their ancestors in terms of acquiring resources: for example food, territory and mating opportunities,” lead researcher Rebecca Evans told the Metro newspaper.
Researchers surveyed 549 people about their cats, focusing on the pets’ levels of boldness, meanness and inhibition. Those are the three traits that make up the model of psychopathy used with humans.
The quiz, called the CAT-Tri+, is actually a list of 46 statements about your cat, and you rank how much your pet fits each statement. They include whether the kitty seems unaware of danger, torments its prey rather than killing it, is aggressive toward neighborhood cats, and displaces other pets from their preferred position in the house.
Of course, I had to take the quiz for my sometimes naughty but mostly just lively tuxedo cat, Tango. She’s terrified to go outside, but climbing an indoor Christmas tree is her favorite thing on earth.
One statement seemed especially odd to me — “my cat does not appear to act guilty after misbehaving” — because I’ve never known a cat that appeared to show guilt for anything. But overall, Tango scored very low in all categories, which touch on traits including boldness, disinhibition, meanness, pet-unfriendliness and human-unfriendliness.
Other than her penchant for tree climbing, Tango didn’t even score very high for boldness, which was kind of surprising. She actually scored highest in disinhibition, which makes sense, as she is absolutely unbothered by being scolded when she climbs the tree or kicks the other cat, Torgo, out of a favored sleeping spot.
So what do you do with this information? Evans noted that the survey results can help those who live with cats adjust a pet’s environment. For example, cats who score high in boldness might appreciate a tall cat tower to climb. Or maybe the test will just help you realize that on a scale of the world’s cats, your little furball is pretty normal.