So, Your Cat is Neurotic And Wants To Kill You, But Can’t Because It’s Too Small…


Chris Graham abuses his role as editor of New Matilda – and his innate ability to spin scientific research to make it say what he wants it to say – to settle, once and for all, one of the oldest debates on earth: Why are domestic cats so bloody violent?

Cat-lovers around the world be warned: a typical domestic cat shows personality traits normally associated with neuroticism, and if they were a little bit bigger in size, they’d probably eat you. Or maul you to death. Or just bat you around for a while, until they got bored.

That’s not quite what a study out of the University of Edinburgh says – actually, truthfully, it doesn’t say that at all – but it does say that the domestic house cat has “strikingly similar” personality traits to African lions, two varieties of Leopards, and the Scottish Wildcat (note to readers: when the words ‘Scot’ and ‘Wild’ appear together, you should take whatever happens next seriously).

Also, the study is not particularly new – indeed it’s two years old. I raise it now because I’ve been engaged in a long-running battle with a friend about a cat. A lovely cat, but a dangerous cat who sometimes wants to love me… and then sometimes clearly would like to harm me. And in fact does.

Long story short, the only reason I’m still alive is because my friend’s cat is too small to kill me.

Someone didn’t share their dinner… and so someone else is plotting their revenge, and waiting for a moment of weakness.

So infers the study – entitled Personality Structure in the Domestic Cat (Felis silvestris catus), Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia), and African Lion (Panthera leo) – which looked at five different varieties of ‘felids’ – a fancy word for cats.

“While the study of non-human personality has increased in the last decade, there are still few studies on felid species, and the majority focus on domestic cats. We assessed the structure of personality and its reliability in five felids —domestic cats, clouded leopards, snow leopards, African lions, and previous data on Scottish wildcats — and compared the results.”

In other words, there’s been lots of studies into the behaviour of domestic cats, but no-one thought to compare them to ‘other cats’, like African lions, which would obviously eat you in a heartbeat. You can read the full study here, but there’s a few key lines in it that cat lovers – my friend in particular – need brought to their urgent attention.

The first is this one: “Across the five felid species we assessed, personality structure was strikingly similar….”

That’s pretty unambiguous. And so to put it in some kind of human context for you, if we studied Tony Abbott, and compared his personality traits with four other humans – say, Ted Bundy, Ivan Milat, John Wayne Gacey and Richard Ramirez – and the results came back suggesting all five men were “strikingly similar”, that would be a news story.

The Domestic Cat… which has ‘strikingly similar’ personality traits to an African Lion.

But back to the study, which also found: “Impulsiveness (in domestic cats) had the highest loadings on ‘excitable, active, and playful’, traits normally associated with neuroticism and extraversion, but traits that reflect Impulsiveness were more numerous, including eccentric, impulsive, distractible, and reckless.”

Which makes domestic cats sound rather cute… which they obviously are… until you read this part: “Domestic cat personality ratings define three factors. Dominance had the highest loadings on the traits aggressive to conspecifics, bullying, and dominant.”

In other words, domestic cats are even more dominant, aggressive and bullying than African lions.

Says my cat-loving friend: “That’s why it’s so exciting being a cat owner.”

And says my cat-loving friend’s friend, who occasionally looks after said cat: “The Fluffy is very special. But I no longer leave my children alone with her, for reasons that should be patently obvious.”

Either way, the debate now appears settled… domestic cats, while certainly fluffy and delightful and lovely at one level, are homicidal at their core.

There endeth the lesson. I win.

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. In more than three decades of journalism he's had his home and office raided by the Australian Federal Police; he's been arrested and briefly jailed in Israel; he's reported from a swag in Outback Australia on and off for years. Chris has worked across multiple mediums including print, radio and film. His proudest achievement is serving as an Associate producer on John Pilger's 2013 film Utopia. He's also won a few journalism awards along the way in both the US and Australia, including a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards. Since late 2021, Chris has been battling various serious heart and lung conditions. He's begun the process of quietly planning a "gentle exit" after "tying up a few loose ends" in 2024 and 2025. So watch this space.