Throughout my trip in Greece, I have seen many cats of different sizes, shapes, and colors. I have also come to realize that just as humans have distinct personalities I see this reflected in cats too. The Big Five taxonomy allows people to better understand, identify, and compare personality traits most humans have (Tupes and Christal 1961). Using the Big Five personality types of conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness to experience, and extraversion I was able to better understand why different cats throughout the island loved or hated me (Goldberg 1981).
Immediately when I arrived in Spetses I was greeted by a black cat I named Bella. Bella had immediately run up to my classmates and me right when we arrived at the unloading deck. Bella then continued to follow me to my dorm while curiously smelling my belongings on the way. Once I arrived at the dormitory and placed my belongings on the floor, Bella snuck into my bag to take some food. Using the Big Five, I was able to identify that Bella’s personality type was openness to experience. Some of the traits that are associated with this personality type are curiosity, imagination, and creativity (Saucier 1994). All of these traits allow for humans or in this case a cat, to be more open with their surroundings. Being open to new experiences, like Bella, allows for more positive outcomes. In this case, because Bella was open to meeting new people, Bella benefited by taking a treat.
After a few days of exploring the town, beach, and eating some food I realized that some cats are a lot friendlier than others. For example, mother cats are protective of their kittens thus making them appear mean. I came to understand this when meeting a mother cat behind my dorm. Immediately, when the mother saw me she started hissing which triggered her and her kittens to run into a hole. This mother’s personality resembles Neuroticism, which is a part of the Big Five. Individuals like the mother cat are particularly nervous, emotional, and unstable (Saucier 1994). These personality traits can result in negative impacts on daily life. Unfortunately, this mother is not able to benefit from the love or food I can give her due to her personality type
My favorite type of personality out of the Big Five is extraversion. I have found that cats with these traits often are the friendliest and love to be cuddled (Saucier 1994). Thus, when I met George, a brown and white spotted cat, I immediately fell in love. He was extremely vocal in his need for belly scratches and was assertive while doing so. George would follow my friend and me around the island not because he was hungry, but because he wanted to be loved. Because of his dominant personality, he was able to fulfill his needs and wants more than any other stray cat around.
Similarly to extraversion, I have found agreeableness is another good personality for cats and humans alike to have. A while after meeting George, I saw Gabrielle, a cat although similar to George had a cooperative personality which corresponds to agreeableness (Saucier 1994). Gabrielle oftentimes hangs around outside of my dorm waiting for all of the students to pass by. With a more passive personality, she instead waits for humans to come to her instead of taking the initiative. Although this doesn’t completely ruin her chances of getting food or scratches, she doesn’t get nearly as much love as George.
Overall, I had an amazing time in Greece investigating the different personality types cats on Spetses have. As I continue to meet new people, I can see myself categorizing them as George, Gabrielle, or even Molly.
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Tupes, E. C., & Christal, R. E. (1961). Recurrent personality factors based on trait ratings.
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