House and Home

Don't Sleep Tonight: Study Says Our Cats May Want to Kill Us

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 ("What tipped you off?")

Cats are fluffy little creatures that like playing with string and lying on their backs for a tummy rub. They're also neurotic predators that might suddenly kill you if only they were bigger, according to one interpretation of a study on cats.

The study, by University of Edinburgh researchers working with a number of zoos (including the Bronx Zoo), analyzed the personalities of domestic cats and various wildcats using the so-called "Big Five" personality traits found in people — openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion/introversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism — 9News reports. In the end, researchers concluded that 100 domesticated cats in two Scottish shelters shared the same three personality traits as African lions. Those traits were neuroticism, impulsiveness and dominance, CNET reports.

In other words, your unpredictable, neurotic, dominance-minded cat "would probably consider killing you" if only it were more lion-sized, as 9News puts it.

"If you're standing among a pride of lions, sometimes you'll be fine and other times they will pounce and attack for no reason," psychologist Max Wachtel tells the BBC. "And it's the same for little domestic house cats," though they're "harmless, basically," he says.

Study author Marieke Gartner agrees with the harmless part. She tells CNET it's "a pretty far stretch" to suggest your cat wants to kill you. In her view, "Cats don't want to bump you off, but people often don't know how to treat them and then are surprised by their behavior."

(In related news, scientists have determined how you should pet your cat.)