If cats were people, they’d be psychopaths, scientists say

Some say “cats are people, too” — but if that’s the case, you’d better watch your back. A study has found that the average cantankerous kitty could be harboring actual psychopathic tendencies. Researchers at the UK’s University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University surveyed pet owners to rate their […]

Some say “cats are people, too” — but if that’s the case, you’d better watch your back.

A study has found that the average cantankerous kitty could be harboring actual psychopathic tendencies.

Researchers at the UK’s University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University surveyed pet owners to rate their cats’ level of psychopathy — as defined by human psychological standards.

Their findings, published in the December issue of the Journal of Research in Personality, revealed that most cats fall somewhere on the spectrum of psychopathy — that is, on the “triarchic” concept of psychopathy, which uses levels of boldness, meanness and disinhibition to measure the psychiatric disorder in people.

The 46-question survey, which currently includes 549 participants, asked cat owners to rate whether their cat “torments their prey rather than killing it straight away,” “cat dominates neighborhood cat(s) (e.g. chases them, picks fights with them),” “is undeterred by punishment i.e. will repeat behaviors he/she is scolded for” and “vocalizes loudly (e.g. meows, yowls) for no apparent reason.” Responses were documented on a five-factor scale, from “Does not describe my cat” to “Describes my cat extremely well.”

In addition, researchers added human-unfriendliness and pet-unfriendliness to their scale to create the Cat Triarchic Plus, a tool to measure feline psychopathy.

It turns out that the survey actually emerged from an organic source: cats owned by the researchers themselves.

“Our cats and the differences in their personalities inspired us to start this research,” researcher Rebecca Evans told Vice’s Motherboard.

mean cat mug
Researchers in the UK have concocted a survey of pet owners to rate their cats’ killer instincts, revealing that most cats are at least a little bit psycho.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Personally, I am also interested in how owner perceptions of psychopathy in their cat can affect the cat-owner relationship,” Evans continued. “My cat (Gumball) scores relatively highly on the disinhibition scale — which means he can be quite vocal, proximity-seeking and excitable!”

Evans’ colleague Minna Lyons, a self-proclaimed “crazy cat lady,” admitted that her “bold” cat, Axel, is known for helping himself to food pilfered from her neighbors’ property — more signs of feline psychopathy.

The fact that many cats will fall somewhere on the psychopathy spectrum may be attributable to their animalistic nature, researchers said in an earlier statement to UK media.

“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,” said Evans.

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