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Is Your Cat an Extrovert or an Introvert?

Posted Nov 14 2013 6:00am
Dr. Coates is a veterinarian based in the other “Sunshine State” – that's Colorado to the rest of you – where she lives and plays with a varied range of animals. She shares her professional and personal experiences, Monday through Friday, here on petMD's blog, the Fully Vetted. Log in for your daily dose of her insight and wisdom. < Previous Post Nov 14, 2013 Is Your Cat an Extrovert or an Introvert? by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM     Share       Save to mypetMDWe often talk about people being extroverts or introverts. Merriam Webster defines the terms like this  
extrovert – a friendly person who likes being with and talking to other people : an outgoing person
introvert – broadly : a reserved or shy person
I prefer defining the personality traits in terms of how a person recharges his or her batteries. I’m an introvert. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I get back on an even keel by going for a hike in the woods, reading a book, or some other activity that isolates me from other people. My friend Jane is a classic extrovert. When she needs the proverbial shot in the arm, she seeks people out; the bigger and more raucous the group the sooner she’ll be feeling better. This is not to say that Jane doesn’t need moments to herself or that I live my life as a hermit, we simply have different comfort zones that we retreat to when we need a break.
Cats can be extroverts or introverts as well. My current kitty, Vicky, is an introvert. She seeks attention, but only when and where she chooses. And there are long stretches of the day where she can be found curled up on a couch in the basement as far removed from the hubbub of daily life as she can get. Pippin, a previous kitty, was a total extrovert (or attention-whore, as my husband called him). He was always in everybody else’s business. Open a cabinet, he’d jump inside. Open the door, he’d rush outside. Sit down, and you’d be getting chin rubs within a second or two.
Problems arose when Vicky and Pippin were forced to share a house. While human extroverts and introverts get along by respecting and catering to each other’s differing needs, the feline capacity for magnanimous behavior is somewhat limited. Vicky needed her space, and Pippin didn’t understand what space was. Therefore, chaos reigned.
With hindsight and a deeper understanding of feline behavior, I now realize that I did not step up to the challenge that combining these differing feline personalities in a single living space presented. Vicky needed several inviolable spaces where Pippin could never enter and intrude on her Zen. Instead of getting frustrated with her for not standing up for herself, I should have set aside parts of the house that were all hers and included food, water, resting spaces, and litter boxes. Pippin, on the other hand, needed to party more. He went stir crazy when left to his own devices for too long and would seek out his own forms of (often socially inappropriate) entertainment. Instead of getting mad at him, I should have spent more time playing with him.
To put it plainly, given enough space, two feline introverts will get along by ignoring each other for most of the day. Two feline extroverts can become best buds and playmates, though they still need to be able to escape one another when the inevitable disagreements arise. But a household that contains both feline introverts and extroverts requires human intervention if it’s going to be harmonious.

Dr. Jennifer Coates
Image: TungCheung / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Purrsonality 11/14/2013 06:20pm I have one that is beyond definition. (Josie) If someone even THINKS about coming into the yard, she's upstairs and under the bed. Heaven forbid they actually enter the yard! However, if it's just me at home, she's velcro, but if another human is within 50 yards, she's invisible.

I have one that's a total extrovert - always into something or bothering another cat. (He is, however, the Cat From The Underworld at the vet) If someone comes to the house, Stan is at the door saying, "You came to see ME, didn't you?" Stan is the reason all the toilet paper is in cabinets and not on the roll. Stan is the reason all the cabinets are blocked or tied closed. Stan loves to get in Josie's face and make her growl.

From time to time, though, all the critters find their own quiet spot to snooze. And when I come home there's a stampede to greet me! Reply to this comment Report abuse 1 ualagirl Buddy needs a buddy 11/15/2013 12:44am Buddy Cat is an extrovert in that he likes to know what we are doing, and if he wants attention, he will reach up with his claws to the chair we're sitting on to get it. He is a little uneasy with the other cats in the neighborhood, possibly because he's the youngest, and the Grey Tabby Godfather does not hesitate put him in his place.

We are hoping our in-the-future dog will be a companion to Buddy, who grew up with siblings and a pack of small dogs and may be feeling lonely. Reply to this comment Report abuse 1
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