Want a friendly kitten? Look at the father!
If you’re looking to adopt a new kitten, you probably want one that will grow into a friendly, good-natured cat. But when confronted with a roomful of wild, playful kittens, it can be difficult to tell which will grow into an adult cat with the friendliest nature. Surprisingly, studies show that the greatest influence on your kitten’s behavior may be linked to paternity, even more so than how the kitten was handled or caged. In other words, kittens sired by friendly fathers were more likely to be friendly.
Cats can exhibit a wide range of personalities, from the most fearful or aloof cat to the purring, drooling cat that refuses to leave your lap. Many factors influence a cat’s personality, including genetics, environment, maternal influence, early socialization and handling, and even the kitten’s nutritional status. Research has shown that in general, kittens tend to have the same temperament as the father. Even among kittens that had never met their father, the kittens with the friendliest father exhibited the friendliest behavior. Because the kittens had never met the father, the effect was clearly inherited genetically.
Genetics are important, but socialization from two weeks of age to about eight weeks of age is also key, with around 30 to 60 minutes of human intera*ction by a variety of different people being optimal. The Merck Veterinary Manual notes that “Paternity appears to be an important determinant of personality in cats” but also that “…the effect of early handling can augment the paternal effect toward a willingness to explore.”
While your cat’s behavior and personality will continue to be shaped throughout her life by environmental factors, choosing a kitten with a friendly sire is a good start.