Is My Cat A Psychopath?

Have you ever met a psychopath? You know, someone who lacks empathy, looks bored all the time, manipulates to get what they want, and has an air of superiority all the time, among other things?

If you're thinking, "Wait, this actually describes ... my cat," you're not alone. Many a cat-owner has wondered if their furry feline friend might be a psychopath. Several researchers have wondered the same thing, and the results of their studies might surprise you (or, then again, they really might not).

Is my cat a psychopath?

Yes, if you are a cat-owner, you are living with a psychopath, according to researchers. A group of researchers at the University of Sussex found that, like psychopaths, cats actively manipulate the people around them to get what they want. While a dog might shoot you puppy eyes and hope for the best when he wants something, cats have a much more deliberate and diabolical way of getting what they want.

When cats want something (like food or to be let out of the house), they let out a special, high-frequency purr that mimics the sound of a human baby's cry. This behavior is totally intentional. Cats have adapted to take advantage of a sound that humans are genetically wired to react to. Basically, cats have two kinds of purrs: "soliciting purrs" (the high-pitched, annoying ones) and "non-soliciting purrs" (the regular ones that are cute and only come when your cat isn't actively trying to manipulate you).

The study's lead researcher, Dr. Karen McComb, explained that the team played both purrs for participants and the results were overwhelming.

"When we played the recordings to human volunteers, even those people with no experience of cats found the soliciting purrs more urgent and less pleasant," — Dr. Karen McComb

Cats are able to control when they let out soliciting purrs and to embed them into non-soliciting purrs, which is especially devious.

"How urgent and unpleasant the purr is seems to depend on how much energy the cat puts into producing that cry," McComb explained. "Obviously we don't know what's going on inside their minds, but they learn how to do this, and then they do it quite deliberately."

Manipulation isn't the only psychopathic trait cats exhibit. They also have shallow emotions and a lack of empathy.

According to Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine at the University of Lincoln's School of Life Sciences, the love between cats and their owners is not reciprocated, no matter how much we want to believe that our cats love us.

"Previous research has suggested that some cats show signs of separation anxiety when left alone by their owners in the same way that dogs do," Mills said, according to the Telegraph. "[But] the results of our study show that… what we interpret as separation anxiety might actually be signs of frustration."

To test this, Mills and his associates put 20 cats in an unfamiliar environment. Some were put there with their owners, some with strangers, and others alone. The researchers saw no evidence that cats felt real attachment to their owners.

Is my cat a sociopath?

Yup. The terms psychopath and sociopath are used more or less interchangeably and both refer to people diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. So, if your cat is a psychopath, he's also a sociopath.

Why is my cat a psycho?

Blame your cat's psychotic personality on evolution. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and the Bronx Zoo in New York compared our domestic house cats to some of the big cat cousins and found that they share the most personality traits in common with lions.

"It's what cats pretty much do on a daily basis, things like being anxious, being timid, being excitable, being aggressive toward humans, being aggressive toward each other," Max Wachtel, a Denver psychologist not affiliated with the study, told the Huffington Post. "All of those are characteristics you see in those cute little fuzzy house cats, and you also see them in lions."

Hunting the dot
credit: Image by Chris Winsor/Moment/GettyImages

Why does my cat hunt me?

Because cats have so much in common with their larger ancestors, they still have many of their wild instincts — including the instinct to hunt. Even though you feed your cat well and make sure all of her needs are taken care of, she still has the primal urge to stalk prey. And, if there isn't anything else around to stalk, well, humans will do.

"In our house, we are the ones that wander by (much to our cat's instinctive delight)," veterinarian Dr. Kathryn Primm wrote in 2016. "Since we are usually the only thing moving in our home, we attract our cats' attention. Additionally, when our cats stalk us and finally catch up, we respond in an entertaining way. I know that I act startled and make a noise or I stop to play with my cat when he stalks and catches me. Your cat is responding to both his instinct to stalk and his desire for interaction with you."

How often do cats kill?

Very. Very often. According to the New York Times, domestic cats kill about 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals every year in the United States alone. These figures some courtesy of a report from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Is your cat really thinking about killing you?

Maybe. In a study conducted by research team of members from University of Georgia and National Geographic, small cameras were attached to cats' heads. One in three of the cats in the study killed prey and those that did averaged two kills a week (or 104 kills a year). Researchers found that the cats ate 30 percent of their kills and brought 21 percent home. The other 49 percent? They were left to rot.

This is a little scary because it means the cats (which were well-fed, domestic house cats) weren't killing for food or to survive, but rather, well, for fun. Yikes. Of course, there's no proof that this means your cat is actively contemplating your murder, but he is very likely actively contemplating a murder.

Mean Looking Cat
credit: Kativ/E+/GettyImages

Can a cat kill you?

As Brian Palmer at Slate, has pointed out, there doesn't appear to be a recorded instance of a cat killing a healthy adult human ever in history (cats have killed people through infection and from falling asleep on a baby's face, however).

Breathe a sigh of relief though: A Vice interview with Frank J. M. Verstraete, a professor of surgical and radiological sciences at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, revealed that it's very unlikely your cat could actually kill you. They just aren't physically equipped to do the deed (at least, not against something the size of a human — smaller mammals beware).

Will your cat eat you?

Your cat might not be able to kill you, but he will not hesitate to eat your remains if you happen to die at home alone with him. It's called "postmortem predation" and cats engage in it must more quickly than dogs do. While dogs will often wait several days, only resorting to eating their owner's corpse to avoid starvation, cats are likely to start eating their owners within a day or two.