Cat Personalities: Feline-ality and Meet Your Match
I wanted an affectionate cat. I had always heard that boy cats were more affectionate than girls, and that orange cats were the most affectionate of all. Armed with this hearsay, I traveled to the Boulder Vally Humane Society prepared to risk my next feline relationship.
Luckily the Boulder Valley Humane Society was armed with a more scientific approach to matching companions: the Feline-ality assessment and the Meet Your Match Program.
Feline-ality – What it is and How it Works
Feline-ality provides a way to document a cat's personality. Animal shelter workers implementing Feline-ality assess a cat's behavior and interests in an effort to create a profile for a cat needing a home. They then note that profile in an effort to match the adopter's preferences with the cat's behavior patterns. The Feline-ality assessment is an integral part of the Meet Your Match program, a way of ensuring cat and new parent make a good match.
The ASPCA and animal shelters in general want to ensure pets and their new owners click so that people are less likely to return the animal. Animal shelters using the Feline-ality assessment run adoption cats through a series of exercises. The evaluators note the cat's behavior patterns in terms of exploring, vocalization, interest in play, etc. Based on these observations, the evaluator places the cat within a grid that determines what personality type he or she is. Each personality is color-coded green, orange, or purple.
- ASPCA | The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The ASPCA works to rescue animals from abuse, pass humane laws and share resources with shelters nationwide. Learn more about what we do, and join our fight today!
Potential adopters are asked to fill out a survey consisting of 19 questions called a Cat Adopter Survey. This survey aims to assess how potential adopters envisions the cat's role in their lifestyle. As with the cats, human preferences are color-coded green, orange, or purple. Based on the results of this survey, cat and person can be matched according to color, though people are not limited to choosing cats only within that personality type. However, according to the ASPCA website, shelters using Feline-ality and Meet Your Match saw around 40% increase in adoptions and similar decrease in the number of returns.
According to Feline-ality, green cats tend to be adventurous and self-sufficient. Therefore, people who want an adaptable cat that can entertain himself – perhaps the adventurous sort themselves, or frequent movers – would do well to choose a green-coded cat.
Orange cats are companion felines. Orange owners don't mind a feline that integrates herself into their life. Both want lots of affection and communication.
Purple-coded adopters are the patient sort who don't mind a cat that needs time to adjust. Purple cats may be shy, but they just need some encouragement; their perfect companion will probably appreciate that these cats stay out of trouble.
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Cat Personalities Defined
The ASPCA identified nine cat personality types classified under the three color codes.
They call adventurous green cats Party Animal, MVP, or Leader of the Band.
- Party Animal: As you can imagine, these are the most playful type of cat. These are the felines who will look at a hair tie and call it a toy. Or become obsessed with that roving red light on the wall. Or bat at the dust motes in the sunlight. Of course, when their human companion gets out a cat toy, the party animal will romp and play all evening. These cats are likely to end up on funny cat video segments.
- MVP: Have you ever seen a cat that could open doors, flush toilets, or back into a box at least a size too small? That is the MVP, a resourceful, sometimes too-smart cat. These felines will get themselves into and, hopefully, out of many ridiculous situations. MVPs are also good candidates for funny cat videos.
- Leader of the Band: These are vocal, confident cats. A leader of the band will talk to his human companion and show lots of affection. These fearless cats, though, are not afraid of new situations. If you've ever read Six Dinner Sid (a cat that mooched dinner from six "owners"), you'll know what a Leader of the band is capable of.
According to Feline-ality, quiet purple cats are Love Bugs, Private Investigators, and Secret Admirers.
- Love Bug: These are lap cats. These felines love nothing more than to sit in their human companion's lap, kneading and purring contentedly. If you're looking for unconditional love and support, seek out a Love Bug cat.
- Private Investigator: Have you ever heard someone say "I have a cat around here somewhere"? That person probably had a Private Investigator. These are the shy cats, the ones who skitter away from new people. Yes, these felines might hide under the bed at first, just watching. However, for the patient new companion, the Private Investigator can provide years of relatively trouble-free co-existence.
- Secret Admirer: If you've ever wanted a secret admirer in a non-creepy way, these are the cats for you. Secret Admirers take their time getting to know new people and surroundings. Eventually they have the potential to become pretty affectionate. Like a quintessential Secret Admirer, this cat will likely become very loyal to her companion or family.
Friendly orange cats earn the titles the Sidekick, the Executive, and the Personal Assistant.
- Sidekick: Sidekicks are a good mix of friendliness and self-reliance. These cats like to play and be stroked, but they don’t seek it out first thing. If you're looking for a cat that will give you both love and alone-time, you want a Sidekick.
- The Executive: Executive cats are always on the move. They are the quintessential curious cats, and they will be out exploring the world. Executives adapt well to new circumstances without having to lean too heavily on their companion. These cats are great for people who don't want a high-maintenance pet.
- Personal Assistant: Speaking of high-maintenance and co-dependent, that's the Personal Assistant. If you've ever heard someone say, "My cat acts just like a dog," they probably had a Personal Assistant. These are the cats that come when called -- and when they're not. Personal Assistants are also the cats that "help:" with the computer, the newspaper, puzzles. These are companion cats.
What Type of Cat Would You be?
Lindemann was a rescue cat at the Boulder Valley Humane Society. A police officer spotted him over time around some dumpsters at an apartment building and called animal rescue. He ended up with a cushy gig at the Gift and Thrift Shop associated with the shelter. However, when he first arrived, he had a very upset stomach, and, well, it was coming out both ends. Lindemann was not a feral cat; he had been someone's pet as evidenced by the fact he'd been spayed and by how quickly he took to being a tame cat again – not to mention his upset stomach.
Boulder Valley runs the Feline-ality assessment and Meet Your Match Program. So, at a suitable time, one of the shelter workers ran him through the following test:
- Step 1: In order to determine if he was a friendly sort, the evaluator approached his cage while speaking in a calm but normal tone of voice. She noted that Lindemann (called Crosby at the time – right idea, wrong rock star!) came to the front of the cage after some encouragement.
- Step 2: Next she removed Lindemann from his cage, placed him in a crate, and moved him to a brand new room. She then timed how long he took to get out and noted his interaction with the evaluator. Lindemann exited in under 25 seconds with tall body posture. Still tall he investigated the room. He also spent 25 seconds interacting with the evaluator. He showed a fair amount of ability to adapt to a new situation with minimal fear and encouragement.
- Step 3: Next, the evaluator crouched across the room from Lindemann and called out to him. She also extended a closed hand to time how long it would take him to approach. Lindemann made eye contact and went to her in under 30 seconds. Once there, he sniffed and head-butted her hand. He received 7 out of 10 points, showing a decent amount of friendliness.
- Step 4: Again testing for valiance, the evaluator opened her hand and extended towards Lindemann. He reacted by sniffing and rubbing the open hand, showing an average level of valiance.
- Step 5: The evaluator, still testing courage, used a cupped hand to stroke Lindemann from heat to tail. He rubbed against her hand and head-butted her hand, showing another average level of valiance.
- Step 6: In testing for willingness to play in new surroundings, the evaluator moved a string along the floor to initiate play. She also tried to engage him by using two other toys, none of which had catnip in them. Lindemann watched intently and chased the toy. (From experience, I can say he likely preferred the cat charmer since those are his favorites.)
- Step 7: Back the assessing independence vs. gregariousness, the evaluator tested his "hug." She stroked him and, since he was calm, picked him up. She cradled him to her chest with his body sideways for two seconds. Lindemann was relaxed but did not extend his paw to her shoulder in a true "hug."
- Step 8: This last procedure tests sensitivity. The evaluator sat and allowed Lindemann to approach. Once he had done so, she stroked his back and gently grasped his tail at the base. She pulled up with steady pressure until just before his back feet lifted off the floor, holding the position for 1 second. Lindemann did nothing, showing he is a trusting sort.
After Lindemann had been returned to his cage, the evaluator plugged the results into a grid and came up with the verdict: Lindemann is a Personal Assistant.
Feline-ality at Work
How accurate do I think this assessment is? Well, as I'm writing this Lindemann is behind the monitor watching the sights. In a minute he'll take a leisurely stroll to the front, to see what I'm doing. After awhile I'll go get a snack for myself, and he'll likely trot along after me. We've had battles about whether or not he gets to sleep in my bed (I'm a light sleeper and have insomnia), and his subtle war has included gauging when I might go to bed and turning up there just minutes before, looking too cute to remove. In short, oh, yes, Lindemann is a Personal Assistant as defined by Feline-ality.
Cats have personalities – cat-lovers to cat-haters agree on that at least. Have you ever wondered what's going on in that cat's mind? The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) developed a method for assessing a pet's behavior and describing the cat or dog's personality -- in the case of cats, their "feline-alities." It probably won't work to try the assessment on a cat you already have (the relationship already exists, skewing the results), but peruse the descriptions and see which personality you think cohabitates your home.