your cat isn’t plotting to kill you, just annoy you

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Posted by Dr. Ernie Ward on Dec 09 2015
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The Internet recently broke the news that your cat is plotting to kill you. Research published by the University of Edinburgh concluded that domestic kitties, wild lions and leopards shared frighteningly similar personality traits. Websites blared banners proclaiming cats were planning our demise as they lurked by the litterbox. I’m formally disagreeing with that interpretation and misrepresentation of felines. Instead of murder, I think the research concludes cats are content annoying us to death.

Behavioral scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the Bronx Zoo in New York evaluated personality traits of five felids – clouded and snow leopards, Scottish wildcats, African lions and housecats. After much study, deliberation, scientific know-how and statistical secret sauce, the researchers determined each felid had three “factors of personality”:

Scottish wildcats: Dominance, Agreeableness and Self Control

Domestic cats and African lions: Dominance, Impulsiveness and Neuroticism

Clouded leopards: Dominance/Impulsiveness, Agreeableness/Openness and Neuroticism

Snow leopards: Dominance, Impulsiveness/Openness and Neuroticism




So how did we get to “your cat secretly wants to kill you?”

The online calculus became: Dominance + Impulsiveness + Neuroticism = Housecats are Heath Ledger’s “Joker.”

I disagree. When I do the internet math, I get Jesse Eisenberg. Jesse might impulsively contemplate doing harm, but his neuroticism overrides his dominance and he apologizes profusely for something he never did. That pretty much sums up my cats.

I start to scratch them, they make a half-swat, swipe or hiss and immediately cuddle and rub. I conclude we have conflicted cats. Their DNA tells them they’re lions and they should be able to do as they please. The reality is they live in an apartment, eat canned food and potty in recycled newspaper litter. That may explain the neuroticism.

What really surprised me, and the researchers, was how similar housecats, leopards and lions were in this study. But I don’t believe your cat is plotting to kill you. I do wonder if my cats conspire to perturb me. During the writing of this column, my cat, Itty Bitty Kitty (a neurosis-inducing name if ever there was one), has: deleted two paragraphs (they weren’t that good, anyway), licked my latte (she hates it), swatted my dog causing a brief altercation (she sneered) and moved my mouse at least a dozen times (funny!). She probably robbed me of at least six minutes of life expectancy. Maybe she is plotting to kill me after all.