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How much of who they are is a result of who we are?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
This morning I was getting ready & talking to Maggie. Telling her that I knew the princess was hungry and to just give me a minuet. I was telling her how beautiful she is. When I talk to her like that she flops down on her side & streches. She does this same thing every day when I come home and ask how her day was. It got me to thinking about how all of my cats have certain behaviors and how they are all differnt from each other. I started to wonder if they would behave the same way if they were someone elses's kitties? I would guess they would have some of the same behaviors, but that a differnt person would reinforce differnt behaviors. I think about this all the time with cats at the shelter. I find myself wondering what that cat was like with that person & if they would be the same cat in a new home. So what does everyone think. Are there behaviors just a result of their differnt personalities, or are they are a result of what we selectivly reinforce?
post #2 of 6
I think a lot of it is what they get from us in terms of the responses they receive (reward/correction), attention etc. but how they react to us also depends upon their personality, which in turn is at least partly formed by early environment and experiences including from their mother.

It's easy to see how we affect the behaviour of our pets, if they were with someone who ignored, mistreated, or hurt them, their behaviour would be very different. My 2 confident and loving boys may become withdrawn and fearful, and a cat that has had previously bad experiences can blossom in time when shown they have nothing to fear any more.

We definitely reinforce aspects of our cats' personalities that we find pleasing or unnacceptable with our reactions to them. Radar does love to pester my toes, this is the result of my friend cat-sitting when Radar was little, and encouraging him to play with his toes by wiggling them and laughing. I on the other hand plead with him not to do it, but he obviously still gets something out of my reaction when he's doing it because the lure is still great even though I am sure he knows I don't like it. If he were with someone who kicked him when he did it, he probably wouldn't do it any more, but he would also react differently to other things as a result of his fear of them.

I don't know if that makes any sense, I'm rambling a bit. I think their personality is part inborn and part early experience - and we encourage the things we like and discourage the things we don't like - even if that is unintentional and doesn't always have the desired result, such as me shrieking when Radar takes my toes unaware encouraging him to do it again because it's exciting A naturally affectionate cat will see petting and a cuddle as reward, a shy personality would see the same thing as a punishment - if that makes sense
post #3 of 6
I sing to my cats Seriously, I make up silly little songs that I sing to them. Every time I start to *really* sing, the pets come out of the woodwork (I like to think I have a halfway decent singing voice!). Would they do this with somebody else? I'm not sure, but I've never heard of another cat who thinks that singing = attention, love, or food.

I truly believe that I have a lot to do with their personalities!
post #4 of 6
I tend to believe in genetics a lot, but also that 'nurture' counts - I recently adopted a 6 mo. (at the time) old male who'd spent almost his whole life in a little cage at the shelter. Now, I'll open a cupboard and he'll jump in, or close him in a room (to keep from scarfing everyone else's food) and he'll stay in the cupboard or room indefinitely without complaining, which is not at all like what any other cats I've had do. So I think having been 'crated' for his life (he's not even 8 mos now) has somehow trained him to just sit in a dark cupboard and think it's ok. I hate that it happened to him, even though it comes in handy sometimes :-).
post #5 of 6
I think nurture plays a lot in making a cat a good "people cat," which is why breeders strive to keep kittens until they're at least 3 months old. Those early interactions help so much, like most any other intelligent animal. Look at all the people who learn which foods are good or bad when they're kids, after all

But yeah, there's a mix of both. I mean, your question is the ultimate question of what creates personality, and it hasn't been answered for people -- and we can ask people questions and get answers. Sure, a lot of personality comes from the cat just being a cat, and how it perceives and reacts to things. And a lot of things are affected by body size and shape, but can also be affected by diet, which in turn leads to changes in their nature.

I think most cats with loving owners learn a lot about what good or bad behavior is through their actions, but you know, they have to display that action first. They have to take a chance and be weird and see if it's good or bad. Some just sit there, others clown around, and they will learn what's good and bad, but a clown will still clown!
post #6 of 6
I for sure think that cats are a product of environment, and that her being in my environment shapes it differently than if she weren't here also. I know that she picks up on my cues, as well as I pick up on hers. I sing to Oaful, talk to her, and interact/play with her in a very hands on way. One game that we play is called "Poooofy Tail"--I can just say this phrase, and she'll start playing by running out of the room and poofing her tail, trying to bait me into wagging and pawing her tail, and when I "git her tail" or "get her head", she "gits mommy" and I run out of the room and she follows me and we start the whole thing again. It's really cute! I doubt she'd play this game with anyone else; I'm quite obsessed and loving with her, and she reflects back with a very gentle, fun, playful, loving and interactive attitude. She's a different sort of cat outside her home; extremely guarded, nervous, and dominating--she grunts, growls, and hisses at any other cat, even when they're curious and friendly towards her.
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