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Affection - Nature vs Nurture?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I am wondering what other people’s experiences have been with cats and their levels of displaying affection. I have had three cats in my adult life and all three have been extremely affectionate, with the latest two being complete love bugs. The only one I have living with me right now must be on me, or around me and meows like a nutcase if he goes into the backyard and comes back in. It’s like he has to tell me what he’s been doing. He doesn’t like to be outside for long, but occasionally does a quick tour of the garden and comes back in.

If I sit on the couch he has to come lay on me, or beside me if he’s too hot. He does the funniest thing with his head, trying to turn it upside down while he’s still standing up, until he gives up and just flops over and puts his feet in the air. When I go to bed he come and sleeps on the bed and I have to remain fairly still or he’ll start purring and drape himself over the top of my head. He really likes it when I pick him up, and if I bend over he’ll stretch himself upward in anticipation. My Mom loves to pick him up because he turns himself in our hands to keep facing us as we lift him. He's a danger to walk around with as he doesn't seem to understand how to not trip me, so I always keep a hand on the banister on the stairs.

My parents and my sister’s cats on the other hand are just not affectionate. They seem to allow the humans to live in the house, but could care less. They will occasionally cuddle with them but most of the time they are indifferent. My parents have 4 cats all together, all various rescues, and my sister has two Siamese crosses that are approaching 14 years old.

I wonder if because their cats were raised with other cats or have become accustomed to cat company, if they are less affectionate with people. I have raised cats together as well however, and somehow my cats end up as love bugs. Is this behaviour learned or innate, I wonder. All of the cats I have discussed are domestic mixes, with a few confirmed Siamese ancestors in the mix. My cat Bonkers, who passed away 2 years ago was a rescue from a litter of kittens, and we know that a large male Siamese was the father. I kept Bonkers and my parents kept two of the same litter. Mine ended up affectionate, theirs were less so.
post #2 of 7
My speculation? A little bit of both nature and nurture plays into their behavior. I have a large household and every cat was originally born feral. You would think that if was simply nurture, that they would all be shy. Since they came out of the same colony, I suspect that some of them are genetically related. Some are very affectionate, and some are quite shy.

I also have 2 littermates that were orphaned and hand raised by me from 10 days old. One is highly affectionate, the other simply loves to play and no snuggling allowed.

I have had people visit me and claim that my cats are more affectionate than the norm. But they've only seen the ones that aren't afraid of strangers.
post #3 of 7
Your experiences could also describe mine -- and all of "my" cats have always been rescues, from various situations but most from "the streets" and former neighborhoods where they were outdoors and unspayed/neutered. I believe that cats, like all other living beings and particularly other mammals, benefit from affection given, and also react to affection withheld by being less affectionate themselves. This isn't a hard-and-fast rule, though -- and I truly believe that ANY cat will be affectionate, given half a chance and patience! Yes, even ferals. Cats being mammals, and actually loving social living, will BE mammals if they are allowed to do so. LOVE CATS!
post #4 of 7
I'm voting nurture on the affection with humans. My guy was found when he was a baby on the street and I took him from a friend of a friend of my brother's. For months, he was still that hiding scaredy cat who would come out only to eat and poop. Then he slowly figured out that I was the one who fed him and cleaned up his poop and came to play with me and entertain me for a while. I didn't force the issue, but I kind of imagined having a mushy little baby for a cat, not overly affectionate, but a cuddler and a cat who loves to chase a ball. Over time, he sat with me, and I babied him more and more, and now he's the exact cat I want him to be most of the time He even lets me pick him up and give him hugs when I get home from work now and likes to be held like a stuffed animal when we lay on the couch... I think it all depends on how we raise them... we pretty much show them how to be affectionate by being that way and they go for it eventually...
post #5 of 7
Cats are able to show affection to their kittens and to their grown siblings and mothers. So that's nature. When they show affection to humans, it's not entirely trained--all they are doing is applying what they'd do naturally to a human instead of a cat. They treat you like they would a kitten, a mother, or a sibling. Unaffectionate cats simply haven't learned this; and they treat you like they would another, unrelated cat--live and let live.
post #6 of 7
My nearly 16 y/o torty cat, Coco, has never been a cuddle bug. She won't let you sit down holding her. She rubs around your legs when feeding time, always comes to say hello when you come home. She's also sometimes a cranky cat. If she's in the way & you bump her out of the way, she hisses.
Blossom, I've had since 3-4 w/o, is also a torty/calico, so I've spent a lot of time patting her & she's a lot more cuddly than Coco.
post #7 of 7
It's hard to say how much is nature and how much nurture. I adopted Jaffa and Magpie (his litter mate, now at rainbow bridge) when they were 8 week old kittens from a rescue. I don't know a lot about their first few weeks, but they both had exactly the same start in life and grew up with the same experiences and exposure to the same people. Jaffa is extremely affectionate and is like Sohni's cat in the first post. Always wanting to be with me and he'd love to be stroked and cuddled 24/7. At night he sleeps on the bed beside me. He hates to be picked up, although I attribute that to the fact that I used a wheelchair when I first got him so didn't pick him up much when he was a kitten. He's a timid cat with strangers and hides under the bed when I have visitors.

Magpie had a totally different personality. He was affectionate, but always on his own terms and didn't want constant cuddles like Jaffa. He just didn't have the same need for affection and would make it clear when he wasn't in the mood. When he was in the mood, he'd lie on the floor and enjoy having his tummy rubbed or sit beside me. He didn't mind being picked up either. He would be shy initially when I had visitors, but if they stopped he would soon come out and demand fuss.

2 cats with the same nurture but very different natures.

Mosi is a love bug but he's not really a lap cat. He's a bit like Magpie in that he likes things on his terms, but he does love a cuddle and needs a lot of interaction. He's very friendly with strangers and loves everyone. He stayed with his mum until he was 14 weeks old, and grew up with other cats and children. He's a very well socialised cat but I also think it's in his nature to be outgoing and friendly.
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