Dear Christopher Cat
I breed Manx cats, and I think I’ve discovered something fascinating about genetics and cat behavior. Kittens fathered by one of my males are much friendlier than kittens sired by my other male. It doesn’t matter which female gives birth to the kittens. Is this possible?
Yes, and research confirms your observation.
Cat behavior, particularly friendliness to humans and response to handling, is determined in large part by the tomcat. It’s called the “friendly tom” effect.
In one experiment, veterinary behaviorists studied 13 litters of kittens, varying such aspects of their care as when they were weaned, whether they were housed separately or together, and how often they were handled.
Several times during each kitten’s life, the researchers tested friendliness to humans and response to physical restraint. They found that the most significant determinant wasn’t how they had cared for a kitten, but instead, which tomcat had fathered the kitten.
You can use the friendly tom effect to breed cats who like people and enjoy being handled -– desirable traits in both show cats and pets.