bb rose presents... personality development in

kittens
Intro
Alexander
Buster
Fidel
Buster & Fidel
Nuit
Conclusion

Thanks to the good people who gave these kittens homes.

Intro -- BB Rose

Midsummer, I adopted a half starved, pregnant stray, and gave her the name BB Rose. Her kittens were born on Friday the 13th of August, 1999, giving me an excellent opportunity to observe development in cats.

Watching their unique personalities emerge raises the old nature vs. nurture question. While this isn't a controlled experiment designed to arrive at conclusions accurate plus or minus 5%, one thing which seems true is that for kittens there is a genetic component to personality, that is, they are not born tabula rasa. Or perhaps it's karma carried from a previous life. Either way, they do come prepackaged with something.

Alexander

Alexander was named for Alexander the Great. From birth he seemed to be the leader -- the biggest, and boldest, with a calm air of assurance one might associate with a natural leader.

However, after about four weeks things changed, and if I were to give him a handle now it would more likely be Marcus Aurelius. It may be that his three sisters simply caught up (nature) or it may be the trials of living with three sisters (nurture(?!)). Whatever it was, Alexander is less bold, but still retains a quiet, at times almost reflective, calm. Of course, if a sibling's tail happens to pass near his mouth... well, some things are irresistable to any kitten.

Buster

What's to say. From early on Buster was a Buster, quite likely to be the one to initiate a playful scrap. However, after four weeks (this seems to be a pivotal point) she began to take on more of the qualities that Fidel was named for -- much more demonstratively affectionate.

Fidel

Fidel is named from the latin for 'faithful', not the Cuban dictator. As it turns out, she's actually a Fidelia, but since she's also a spirited scrapper like her sister Buster, its difficult not to think of her as a 'cute little guy' -- both Buster and Fidel are so darn butch. Fidel was the first kitten to seem to regard me as a likeable entity, coming out of the box that was their den when she heard my voice. She was also the first to purr while I stroked her.

Buster & Fidel

The way they've developed, Buster and Fidel make a strong argument for the genetic basis of personality. During their heats, cats can be impregnated by more than one father, and due to the physical similarities between these Calico Sisters, it's likely that they have the same father. While Buster didn't initially show Fidel's demonstrative affection, she's certainly caught up in that regard by six weeks, not infrequently scaling my leg for a cuddle, with those tiny little claws they have (thank goodness it isn't shorts season!). Now they are like two peas in a pod (peas with the same combination of dominant and recessive genes, for any Mendelians reading this).

Nuit

Nuit was named from the French for 'night', for obvious physical reasons, though depending on how you feel about night it might reflect her personality as well. She is the most shy of the kittens and has been from the start. She is generally quiet, soft and black and developing the kind of fluffy coat that suggests her father had a good measure of Persian blood in him. And the shyness is most strongly expressed towards human strangers, with the exception of my friend Gary who is adopting her. She'll tussle with the rest of kittens, and has never had any trouble finding a spot at the dairy bar.

Conclusion
The personalities of Fidel and Nuit seem to have remained relatively consistent from birth, whereas both Alexander and Buster evidenced changes in personality after the fourth week. To the extent that environment plays at least some role, I have adopted a somewhat Rogerian approach to raising them, lots of unconditional positive regard and all that (though if their mother feels that one of them requires a bath she tends to be somewhat more interventionist). Buster and Fidel are especially interesting with their most common genetic background, and the fact that they are now so similar. The only puzzling bit is why early on was Fidel so affectionate and Buster not? Did Buster become that way due to a genetic predisposition shared with Fidel, or was it in response to being raised in a loving environment?

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