Copycat Cats

When out on the town, women often head for the ladies’ room together. It’s a scene we’ve seen played out in countless movies and television sitcoms. But it happens in my home as well. My three cats, all females, seem to most enjoy using their litter boxes when I am in the bathroom. And according to new research by scientists at the University of Messina’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, they aren’t stalkers, they’re copycats.

Published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, the recent study reveals that cats often adopt the habits of their humans. To come to this conclusion, scientists observed two groups of cats. All were given excellent care by owners who worked during the day and returned home in the evenings. However, one group lived with humans in smaller homes, affording them greater proximity to their owners. The cats in the second group had expanded territories. They were allowed access to the outdoors and even slept outside at night.

As the study progressed, the cats in the first group began to ‘copy’ the activity of their owners—eating when their owners ate, sleeping when their owners slept. The cats in the second group did not—instead becoming more active at night. But the copycat tendencies of felines don’t stop there.

The journal Applied Animal Behavior Science recently published another study on cats, this one examining their personalities. Scientists at The University of Edinburgh found that cats can exhibit arrogance, shyness, trust, aggression, timidity, excitement, dominance, curiosity and calm—just as humans do. They postulate that feline personality is at least partially dependent on environment.

If an owner is socially reserved, rarely having guests over, it follows that his cats might be apprehensive in such situations. On the other hand, if he is gregarious and encourages visitors, his cats may develop friendlier personalities as well.

Do your cats copy you? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments.

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