If you’d like a quick overview of cat behavior I’ll provide it because below is a lot of detail and an index which will take a lot of time to read and digest (about 9,000 words!). This is meant to be a comprehensive page on domestic cat behavior. The information is provided in bullet fashion to compress the page.
When discussing cat behaviour you cannot escape discussing human behaviour. Domestic cat behavior is all about the innate behavioral traits of the wild cat ancestor as domesticated and as altered and affected by how the cat’s owner and others interact with the cat.
Owners must interact with their cat as a cat. Your cat is a domesticated wildcat and just below the surface there is a wildcat character. Respect it. Learn a bit about it on this site – it’s all here [click]. Try and see the world from the cat’s perspective. They are living in a human world created very much in the human’s image of how the world should be. The cat has to adapt. They have to literally look up to us as we are much larger than them and we can intimidate by our size. Handle cats respectfully and gently and as cats not as babies.
Allow the domestic cat to behave as naturally as possible by making the home cat friendly. This means some high vantage points, no strange people, quiet and calm, and routines plus some hiding places. Play with your cat a lot.
Your cat will feel more secure if you follow a routine which he sees and fits into. If he feels secure he’ll act more naturally and open up. You want that because you’ll see a happy cat behaving as a cat should.
Make him feel secure by interacting with him respectfully. Stroke gently and in the places he likes. Don’t punish him, ever. He is acting instinctively and therefore doing nothing wrong. He won’t understand the punishment.
As you can see cat behaviour depends to a large extent on human behaviour as your cat is shoehorned into a human environment. If your cat is full-time indoors it is important to make the home interesting from a cat’s perspective.
Cats are not independent as people say. They want to interact with you from time to time on their terms. And they want you around as much as possible provided your behaviour is cat friendly. They are not aloof and cold. They’re just a different species of animal. Respect it please.
- The human-cat relationship
- Cat Aggression
- Cat behavior – the various cat breeds and individual cats
- Social behavior
- Courtship, mating, development
- Hunting and Play
- Have your say – share stories about cat behavior
- Click here to see visitors’ submissions
- E-Book on ways to avoid behavior problems (new page)
- Cat Behavior as seen by long term cat guardians (new page)
- For obvious reasons, domestic cat behavior depends to a large extent on our behavior. It is said that our relationship with our cat is based on the model of “commensalism” – meaning one based on a benefit to both parties. In the purebred cat world we play God and create the cat to suit the human.
- Our relationship, though, is a paradox. On the one hand we love our cats. On the other we hate them, poison them, hoard them, shoot them [link], use them for financial profit, abandon them and abuse them. It depends on the person. And that depends mainly on education. Attitudes vary substantially. Fear of cats plays a part [link]. People have polarised views about feral cats and on whether to keep cats permanently indoors.
- Main page: Ownership of cats in the UK
- Our expectations in respect of cat behavior affect how we perceive cat behavior. For example, with our emphasis on speech as a form of communication, we tend to fail to understand the cat’s non-vocal forms of communication such as scratching and scent marking. Our behavior affects cat behavior. If we have high and unrealistic expectations, cat behavior will be unacceptable. If we create a stressful environment our cat will be stressed and it will behave accordingly, sometimes aggressively.
- Those people who are most satisfied with their cat’s behavior and who form the closest bonds with their cat are the people who are the most respectful and accepting of their cat as a cat and their individual traits. The type of close bond formed is, however, flexible in its nature depending on the character and personality of the human.
- How we socialise our cats is a major factor in cat behavior. The 3-7 week period of kitten hood is important for socialisation1. Poorly socialised cats will find it hard to fit in with the human way of life but even feral cats can be tamed and wild cats socialised. The best wildcat hybrid breeders socialise their cats beautifully leading to very acceptable cat behavior for us.
- Socialisation of kittens is a form of cat training.
- What do we like about cats? Answer: companionship; they are clean, they are easy to care for and they have their own personalities2.
- In respect of people’s own cats, cat keepers said that what they liked most about their cat was the interactive behavior (97% said this3).
- Our bonding with our cats is naturally based on the same reasons why we bond with other humans, namely, spending time with our cat, being physically close to them, playing with them and petting them4. Cats and pets also provide their own support to the human, distinct from the support of other humans.
- Kittens raised without human contact will always be fearful of strange humans but may warm to a single person. This is expected cat behavior.
- Selective breeding of the cat breeds also increases our cat’s sociability. Breeders should select cats that have the correct appearance and temperament to maximise best cat behavior.
- A1 Savannahs, arguably the world’s best breeders, made important decisions early on to breed from cats with known good temperaments over appearance. That decision has paid off. Studies show that well socialised and confident mothers increases the confidence of the kittens resulting in better relationships with people5through cat behavior that fits best with ours.
- I have personal evidence of the power of early socialisation. A F2 Savannah cat that was bottle fed by Martin Stucki is now an incredibly warm and friendly kitten towards people – see Florence here – (date: 23rd May 2010)6. All their cats are very similar.
- Cats unlike dogs follow their own mind7 despite being integrated into our way of life and they choose the type and intensity of the relationship with us as it is the cat who is in control of the level of relationship8.
- Cats generally initiate contact with people for petting, food and other requests such as to go outside.
- Some cat behavioral traits prevents the cat from fully integrating and one such trait is their sleep cycle. Cats are crepuscular, meaning most active at dawn and dusk and at night, when hunting is most effective. The cat is, therefore, most active when we want to sleep.
- Sometimes the human environment is utterly strange and adaptation for the cat difficult. Small apartments come to mind. Games are paramount in these environments.
Cats are very adaptable. Here is an example as to how a three legged cat gets noticed when he wants my food:
Three legged cats adapt. You can see Charlie can adopt a meerkat position and get noticed. He is so comfortable with the meerkat position that he can wash at the same time.
- We need to try and get into the mind of our cat and not ensure that we don’t equate feline social behavior with that of a dog as they are very different.
- Our living arrangements affect a cat’s behavior but its underlying hard-wired wild cat instincts subsist but are gradually being eroded.
- We keep the adult domestic cat in a permanent state of kitten hood9. This is shown in many examples including greeting us in the same way as a kitten greets its mother. Another is cat kneading and cat purring when stroked by us.
- Cat behavior, including vocalisations and scent exchanges, is dependent on our reaction to the cat. If we respond to a cat’s call the cat will call less – sounds obvious but the relationship is mutual.
- A human’s liking of cats often comes from positive experiences with cats when a child10.
- A fear of cats can come from a negative experience concerning cats during childhood [link 1] [link 2]
- We often have false expectations regarding cat behavior and fail to treat them as cats, wishing instead to own a creature that is like a cat but not exactly.
- At 2006 there were 10,332,955 domestic cats in the UK11. There were 75 million in the USA at 200212.
- The number of feral cats in the USA is unknown but similar to the number of domesticated cats13.
- At 2006 26% of UK households kept a cat14 (see more info). In the USA the percentage was 34% at 200215. These figures exclude strays and ferals.
- There are many people in the USA who care for feral cats in a variety of capacities from simple feeding and caring to mobile TNR units. These are charities. See many articles by these people.
- In a survey of cat ownership in Massachusetts, USA, of 1996, it was discovered that most domestic cats were obtained from a friend or were stray cats that were found. A large number of these “found cats” were outdoor cats and people cared for the cat while not considering themselves owners. Cats received half the veterinary care of dogs and 30% had no vet to go to. 82% of the cats were neutered16. But 22% had litters before being neutered.
- Generally speaking, intelligent people keep cats17.
- In households where there are both sexes of human, women most often care for and interact with (including talk to) the cat18.
- The typical cat owner in the USA is a single career woman, living alone or with a partner, in a small home in an urban environment19.
- There are more dogs than cats in the UK at 200620.
- Feral cats are the result of our behavior. It is our responsibility to deal with them humanely. Action to prevent the creation of feral cats should focus on the cause – us21.
- Trap, neuter and release (return) – TNR – is considered the best way to humanely deal with feral cats. The process is weakened by restricting it to local areas rather than a widespread approach.
- Some people feel TNR does not work. The saving of the Scottish wildcat is dependent on a successful scheme of TNR in the highlands of Scotland.
- Los Angeles city has pulled support for TNR on an application to the Superior court by a bird conservation organisation (20th March 2010).
- The gradual extirpation of the wildcats from the smallest Rusty-spotted cat to the largest Siberian tiger is due to us (see wild cat size). We must learn to live with them not force them off the planet. This is largely to do with education, human population growth, corruption, and financial profit in the short term at any long term cost22. Clever schemes are needed. Main page on wildcats: Wild Cat Species.
- Declawing of cats is widespread in the United States – 20 million cats declawed. There are virtually none in Europe and indeed the rest of the world except for Canada where a similar mentality is encountered.
- 8 cities in California have banned the declawing of cats at April 2010.
- California has a bill passing through the legislature at April 2010 that bans landlords stipulating declawed cats when renting.
- Existing animal cruelty laws in the USA could be used to prosecute those who declaw for non-therapeutic reasons.
- Unwanted cats are sometimes euthanised inhumanely.
- Euthanasia of healthy cats is not euthanasia [link]
- Humans can train cats but the concept is reward based while for dogs it is discipline23. Clicker training a reward based training. See also cat training.
- We like to think that cats can be psychic. There is some substance behind this. Can cats predict death etc.? My cat sensed Illinois earthquake.
- There are people who are able to communicate with cats beyond the normal.
- We have associated cats with satanic cults.
- Is there a cat overpopulation problem?
- We should choose a cat and a cat breed carefully, making sure that we are in a position to take care of the cat adequately for the life of the cat.
- The benefits of living with a domestic cat are well documented and include medical and psychological health.
- Cat functions:
- companionship – all studies cite this as one of two major reasons for keeping a cat. The other is to provide a home
for the cat24.
- “someone” to care for
- keeps us busy – occupied mind is a healthy mind.
- something to touch – cat is likely to be always accepting – hassle free release of the need for this activity.
- focus of attention
- Benefits of cat companion:
- Stress reduction – talking to a cat is easier and more relaxing than talking to a person – mental health benefits. Talking to other people can increase heart rate and blood pressure but the opposite happens when talking to a cat25.
- focus for nurturing and care giving – release for this natural desire – mental health
- soothing to touch – mental health
- more play and laughter – mental health
- companionship – tackles loneliness
- Receiving non-judgmental affection
- develops self-esteem if good cat caretaking takes place.
- Cat owners scored higher on psychological health over non-cat owners26.
- Many cat owners need “expectation management” training and education on cat care taking.
- Certain signs indicated a higher risk of the cat caretaker abandoning their cat(s):
- cat intact (not neutered)
- cat is less than 6 months of age. Cats kept for one year or more developed a better attachment to their cat. Adequate time is needed27. Plus commitment.
- no or little veterinary care
- cat adopted free or spur of the moment decision
- cat confined to place outside of house (i.e. basement)
- cat has “behavior problems” that are in fact “human problems” in cat care taking
- lack of human patience in allowing cat-human relationship to develop
- lack of proper expectations and/or realistic ideas on cat caretaking by a person regarding cat care taking and cat behavior leads to relinquishment – this is a major factor in cat relinquishments in my view. This points to education and more education that is required.
- Most often so called “euthanised” cats are killed. There is a difference.
- Main page: Euthanise a cat
- Main page: Humanely euthanise a cat
- Main page: Feral cats are killed not euthanised
- Main page: No kill animal shelters (part 1) – No kill animal shelters (part 2)
- Cat shelters could do much better to reduce the killing rate of cats in their charge.
- It is argued that cat keeping needs to be regulated. There are many areas where regulation could reduce abandonment and accordingly reduce the stray and feral cat populations.
- In conclusion: education and legislation plus better managed cat shelters are needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate feral and stray cat populations.
- Update Jan 2011: Young male moggies are more likely to be involved in car accidents and Moving With A Cat…stress, stress..help!
- Essay on cat parenting….get some tea ready.
- External link: Cats, Dogs and Friends
- Cat Population Control. See the video and leave a comment.
Cat aggression was my fault
- Cat aggression is a form of cat behavior. It is perhaps the most profound reason for abandonment after inappropriate elimination (not using the litter). There are good and discernible reasons for it and most of them are down to us! Cats need to express their innate desire to hunt. Cats should be respected as cats. Expectations about cat behavior should be accurate. An understanding of our cat’s behavior will improve our behavior towards our cat.
- Main page on this subject: Aggressive cat behavior
- Main page: Don’t Punish Your Cat.
- There is no doubt that there are variations in the behavior amongst the large number of cat breeds. Some breeds stand out immediately. The Maine Coon chirps and trills while the Siamese and Oriental Shorthairs are more vocal, loud, playful and demonstrative compared to Persians. The British Shorthair has an almost silent meow. The Sphynx cat is almost monkey like and intelligent. The wildcat hybrids are more intelligent and more active and demanding as a result. The Persian is more placid and static while the Ragdoll is laid back. But these are generalisations. Some Ragdolls won’t be laid back. The differences in character between individual cats is more pronounced, it could be argued than the differences in character between the breeds.
- Pedigree cats are very slightly more friendly, interactive and affectionate than non-pedigree cats (random bred cats)28.
- The two ends of the cat breed behavior spectrum are probably the Persian at the placid end and the F1 Savannah at the most active end.
- Cat behavior follows cat intelligence. Placid cats are less smart. Active cats are usually smarter.
- The Persian is considered one the least intelligent cat breeds while the F1 Savannah is smart.
- The Sphynx is considered the most intelligent domestic cat breed other than the wild cat hybrids.
- Main page on this subject: each breed description has a paragraph on character and behavior, start at the top: Pictures of Cat Breeds A-H
- Cat intelligence varies from breed to breed. Main page on this subject: Cat Intelligence.
- It is said that cat personality can divided into two broad groups (a) cuddlers who desire close contact and (b) players who are energetic29. There other ways to classify cat personality types.
- Disabled cats learn to adapt their cat behavior to accomodate their disability by relying on their range of superb skills.
- Breeders tend to selectively breed for appearance over behavior (character).
- The adult cat meow is a development from when a kitten and designed for cat to human communication
- The domestic cat has modified the wild cat expressions of territorial and social behavior because it lives with human caretakers and other companion animals.
- Cat breed and type is not a barrier to cats communicating with each other. Cats communicate using sound, smell and sight (including scratching).
- In the wild scent marking is very useful as it allows information of a cat’s presence to be communicated for a long period of time when the cat is not there, preventing territorial disputes and fights.
- Scent is deposited through rubbing (from skin glands), urine (spraying) and feces.
- Glands on a cat’s lips, face, ears feet and body contain chemical scents which act as markers. Scent markers declare to other cats their presence and the time of their presence (due to the aging process of the scent affecting it odour). Does scent contain cat pheromones?
Scent gland Location Submandibular Beneath chin Perioral Corners of mouth Temporal Side of forehead Sebaceous Base of tail Interdigital Between pads of paws
- Domestic cats scent mark their human companions (scent exchange); Rubbing their forehead and the side of their head against our legs most usually. Cats also frequently deposit scent on to doors and other rigid cat height objects around the home to make it more friendly to them. Rubbing is called “bunting” apparently30.
- Intact males and in estrus females tend to head rub more than other cats.
- Cats who are housemates or in close relationships scent exchange. The scent glands provide information about identity it is thought.
- Scent from the sweat glands in the cat’s paws also mark trails.
- Spraying is achieved by the cat turning its back to the object to be sprayed, keeping its tail upright (and quivering sometimes) and jetting a relatively small quantity of more pungent than normal urine onto the chosen object. Cat urine spraying horizontally on objects is a form of scent marking. Morpheus a male serval sprayed me three times.
- The extra pungency of sprayed urine comes from amino acids, felinine and isovathene produced in the kidneys and excreted in the urine31.
- Male and females spray urine; intact males spray the most. Research indicates that spraying in domestic cats is a means to identify the individual, its reproductive status and territory32.
- Neutering (male) and spaying (female) can eliminate or reduce spraying but it can continue, sometimes.
- When cats smell urine marking they use the Flehmen response (mouth slightly open to use a gland on the roof of their mouth – see cats nose – the sniff). Cats do not over-mark with their own urine but simply smell and receive the message.
- Wild cats do not bury feces. Some use a defined area as a toilet. This is also a form of marker of presence. Domestic cats usually bury feces. The reason is unclear but may be for reasons of hygiene or (my theory) cats are down the pecking order to humans and burying feces eradicates their presence and does not challenge the human.
- Scratching is also a form of communication. Most cats prefer to scratch vertical rough or hard textured objects. Scratching is also used to stretch. Scratching appears to be a means of making the area where the cat lives more friendly. Cat scratching deposits scent too.
- Cat scratching posts should be placed in areas where cats usually scratch and be solid and well grounded. Cats scratch prominent objects. Cat scratching posts should be in prominent positions.
- See Cat Scratching Furniture. Declawing is not the answer to cat scratching furniture.
- Cat scratching trees or the ground (wild cats), for example, is a form of visual communication.
- Cat body language (body posture and facial expressions) is one form of communication that we should be aware of. Cat body language is used for close communication while vocal communication is for long distance. Defensive/aggressive displays include, bristling hair, dilated pupils, arching the back and placing the ears down and pointing backwards (to protect them in an ensuing fight).
- A more nervous cat might avert its eyes when you look at it and yawn, while a more confident cat looks you in the eye33.
- A cat employs sumo style stand off posturing and loud calling before and to avoid a fight. This can result in one of the two backing off34.
- A cat that is on the offensive employs direct eye contact with an attack posture. Whiskers are pushed forward.
- A relaxed cat might yawn and stretch.
- Apprehension is demonstrated by a crouched position with ears flattened and pupils dilated.
- A threatened cat rolls over into a defensive position revealing claws and teeth.
- The nuances of facial expressions are not as important in the cat world as in ours35.
- Cat feces are also a marker, visual and as a form of scent marking. When they are unburied it might be in a neighbour’s garden as a marker of the boundary of the cat’s territory.
- Cat feces have deposits of scent from the anal sacs on them, which identify the cat36.
- Main page on vocalizations: Cat sounds
- Main page on domestic cats including communication (social organisation): Domestic cats
- Main page on wild cats. Each cat is discussed in detail including communication: Wild Cat Species.
- Cats also use their paws to touch us as a form of communication. Cats touch us in the morning to wake us up. The first touch is gentle the second less so. And the third….37
How far can and do we go when communicating with our cat?
- There are 23 different cat sounds, it is thought38 (this does not, on the face of it, concur with the Sunquists39).There are three cat sound types: murmurs (purring, chirp), vowels and high intensity sounds (usually reserved for communicating with another cat).
- It is also said that a cat’s questions and demands all include vowels40. We can understand the different meaning of the various types of meow through the experience of living with our cat.
- Cat crying is a sign of pain, insistent night time demands for attention or the sounds of a cat in estrous.
- When we stroke our cat it is mimicking the behavior of mother cat licking her young. We should be aware of that to make sure that we stroke in the right place and gently.
- Cats are essentially social loners despite the fact that for the sake of survival or because of what we do, they are adaptable.
- A cat’s social behavior is governed by food and territory and these are linked41. See table below this section.
- It is also governed by the cat’s degree of socialisation.
- Cats socialised to other animals such as dogs and humans between 2 and 7 weeks of age get on with these animals throughout their life. It seems that 40 minutes or longer is required each day42.
- A cat socialised to a single person within the 2-7 week period develop a preference for that person.
- A cat’s behavior towards its human caretaker is somewhat dependent on the number of cats and people in the home43:
Situation Effect44 One or two people in home Cats are more affectionate towards human caretakers than if there are more than two people. Single cat homes Cats interact more with the people of the house Cats kept exclusively indoors Cats are more active and interact more with human caretakers. But they head butt and scent exchange less with humans.
- There is no significant difference between neutered females and males in their behavior towards their human caretakers.
- There is no significant difference between cats of different age in their behavior towards their human caretakers, except for kittens.
- In new introductions between cat and human, research indicates the following:
Situation Effect45 Cat initiates interaction with human Cat shows no preference to male of female person Human initiates interaction with cat Cat prefers adult women who sat and greeted cat. Cat liked less child who approached directly.
- The amount of food available to the cat in the area where it is affects its behavior. Where food is plentiful cats congregate and form colonies as their is no need to defend a hunting territory. Where it is scarce they are more likely to act individually.
- There is a direct correlation between the social behavior of the domestic cat and food source – see table below.
- The availability of a food source is the biggest determining factor in a cat’s social behavior. The more food – the more sociable. Feral cats reduced to hunting generally restrict social interaction to defensive postures46.
- When cats are well fed and sociable they rest together, sleep in contact with each other (50% of the time), lick each other (64% of the time), rub against each other (29%). Little aggression is shown (7% of the time). Intact (unneutered) males interact half as much as females. Neutered males make as many body contacts as spayed females. Spayed females make more body contacts with other cats than intact females.
- Feral cats can be called upon to change their behavior over the course of the year as the food supply changes.
- The cat is not naturally a pack animal47 although there are exceptions (see lion socialisation). Domestic cats are though more social than thought.
- Sometimes the only time a cat makes contact with another cat is when mating!48
- A cat’s relationship with other cats is less important than its tenure of territory49. Territory can be demarcated by human boundaries and of course marking as described in the communication section above. Boundary disputes are also dealt with by “displays of intent”50 and fighting if needs must.
- A cat’s relationship with other cats depends to a good extent on its individual character and their may be a connection between cat breed and sociability. In one study51 it was found that long haired cats adjusted to a new cat better than the Siamese cat. Young cats make friendships more easily than older cats subject to the cat’s personal characteristics.
- Cats recognise close cat companions by scent. If a cat loses its scent (bathed for example) it can instantly become a stranger until the scent returns52.
- Households that have a large family of cats will notice that the hierarchical arrangement is fluid. When one cat dies or goes away the dynamics change.
- Cats see other cats as competition for territory53.
- Pet cats or companion cats who live with and get on with other cats in the same household still show vestiges of territorial rights by for example having a favorite place to sleep.
- A ranking hierarchy is established by companion cats in the same household. This enables peace to generally reign (cat dominance hierarchy). Sometimes an individual cat is made an outcast for no apparent reason.
- It is said that a domestic cat can take 2 – 5 weeks to get used to a new territory54. I think it is nearer 6 months.
- Cats learn from their mother and close relatives by watching.
- The domestic cat is adaptable, therefore, in the interests of survival.
- Feral cats can behave like a pride of lions in respect of social support and group behavior55.
- Melatonin is thought to be responsible for the cat’s routine of sleeping for 16 hours per day.
- Domestic cats probably sleep as much as they do through boredom or because they need not hunt for food. In the wild the efficiency of the cat as a hunter allows it time to sleep for long periods56.
- Cats have a superior sense of direction. See homing instincts of cats.
- Cats grieve. In a study in the United States, it was found that when cats lived together indoors (which is common in the USA) if one died, more than 50% of the surviving cats ate less the next day, they were more vocal, over 40% spent more time at the deceased cat’s favorite spot for 6 months after the death and they sought more affection from their human caretakers.
- It has also been observed that, inline with the solitary nature of all cats including domestic cats, a surviving cat of a couple of cats when one of them dies, is happier after the death of his or her cat companion. The term happiness may be strictly speaking incorrect as it is a term defined by people. But it seems to be established that the surviving cats were more relaxed.
|Food Supply||Number of Cats57 in area of 250 acres|
|Food available as prey||5 cats|
|Food available as prey and food “rubbish”||50 cats|
|Food supplied by people (e.g. fish processing plants in Japan)||2,000 made up of overlapping colonies of 50 or so cats|
Cats mating and failing
- We have to include the wild cats here. I cover the development of wild cats for each species. Here are some examples:
- Main page on: Tiger development
- Main page on: Baby tigers
- Main page on: Snow leopard cubs. All the wild cat species are covered.
- There is some variation between the wild cats but all cats both domestic and wild follow similar patterns of behavior. There are three stages: cat heat, cat mating and cat pregnancy…
- Main page on Cat heat behavior is very specific. The domestic cat acts similarly to the wildcats and on occasion like the lion.
- Main page on Cats mating
- Main page on Cat pregnancy
- Main page on: Overview of reproduction & development of the domestic cat.
- Main page on: Kitten development
- Female wild cat territories are encompassed by a wider male territory (see tiger ecology). Wild cat females call and mark territory to signal that she is in heat.
- Females mate with the male of choice when ready.
- Young males are often “impetuous” and are rebuffed.
- Domestic cats mate 10 – 20 times daily when mating58.
- Mating sessions can continue for 4 – 6 days.
- Males can wait in line forming a queue, one replacing the other when he is tired.
- Males don’t usually have a parental role.
- Male lions commit infanticide killing the cubs of the last dominant male (lion facts). Similar activity may on occasion occur in respect of domestic and feral cats. Research showed that a male who had just arrived on the scene killed six kittens of three queens who were absent59. Females don’t commit infanticide but occasionally it might very rarely happen if the cat is inexperienced and stressed.
- In order for a female to attract lone males she appears to be promiscuous when compared with more sociable animals such as people and dogs (a pack animal).
- Kittens are born in a very immature state with eyes closed and hearing poorly developed. The cat is an altricial60 species.
- Cat behavior – Mothering:
- Whether a female domestic cat makes a good mother or not depends on genes, emotional maturity and how they were mothered.
- In cat colonies or communities females may act as midwives in licking the newborn of other cats and cutting the umbilical cord61.
- We all know the aggression and fearless passion with which a mother defends and protections her young.
- The mother licks her young to stimulate bowel movements. That is why adult cats sometimes raise their backs when being stroked.
- Mothers eat all the kittens body waste products to remove scent for their protection and to keep the den tidy.
- The mother may move kittens after birth and at about 4 days of age. This is believed to be for their protection. Mothers carry kittens by the scruff of the neck.
- A mother’s interaction with her kittens is vital to the kittens development as a well balanced adult cat. In terms of the cat’s development as a well socialised domestic cat living with people interaction with people (see below) is equally important.
- Update 19th Aug 2010: Here is the answer to the question: How Fast Do Cats Breed?
|Age after birth||Event – state of affairs etc.62|
|Birth||kittens weigh 3% of adult body weight at 100 – 110 grams. Poor auditory systems & eyes closed. Need mother’s warmth as can’t regulate temperature.|
|Early days||Kittens display “rooting reflex” – successfully searching for mother’s nipple. Kitten kneads to aid milk production. Kitten has preference for a certain nipple based on scent and texture which remains until weaned.|
|9 -14 days||Increase in mobility|
|2 – 16 days||Eyes open – when largely depends on genetics|
|Kitten hood||Kitten goes limp when picked up by scruff of neck by mother. This is a reflex action. It allows mother to move kittens about.|
|First 2 weeks||Kittens nurse 4 hours daily.|
|2 weeks||Deciduous teeth erupt. Mother starts to bring solid food to kittens|
|After week 2||Kittens nurse 2 – 3 hours daily.|
|First 28 days (neonatal period)||Contented kittens purr and emit high pitched call when needy – mother responds.|
|2 – 3 weeks old||Change occurs due to “maturation of sense organs”.|
|End of 3rd week||Kittens recognise mother by sight.|
|26 – 32 days old||Free-living mothers bring kittens solid food (e.g. mice)|
|4th week||Locating direction of sound well developed. Kittens begin to run.|
|4.5 – 5th week||Mother brings live prey to kittens. The beginning of the weaning process.|
|7 – 8 weeks||Kittens change play and show changes in “locomotor patterns”. At 7 weeks adult movement is achieved.|
|Weeks 2 – 7||Important time to socialise the domestic cat. Early handling by human caretaker critical for socialisation as kittens are highly sensitive to olfactory cues and stimulation through touch. There are long term benefits for the kitten in early human handling. They develop into more confident cats with emotional stability and greater learning abilities63. Handling by humans should happen early on during this period (before 4th week) and last for 30 mins daily. Interaction between other other kittens also important.|
A kittens ability to become a well socialised adult cat is also dependent, unsurprisingly, on genetically inherited personality traits.
8 – 10 weeks. Kittens are weaned. Removing kittens from mother before this age may negatively impact kitten’s health and behavior.
12 weeks. Free living kittens often stay with their mother until this date and beyond.
7 – 14 weeks. Increasing (from above) interaction between humans and kittens over this period is beneficial to adult domestic cat sociability.
Kittens playing and learning
- It is said that the domestic, stray and feral cat is the best small land based predator64.
- Hunting is instinctive for a cat and this instinct needs to be accommodated by cat caretakers. Hunting is not necessarily linked with hunger.
- Different “types” of domestic cat hunt in different ways:
- domestic cats turned feral and in rural areas hunt prey like wildcats. They are able to express their desire to hunt naturally.
- feral cats in urban areas hunt and scavenge but scavenging dominants because it is easier to find food that way.
- domestic cats that go outdoors do some plain prey hunting turning from domestic to wild cat at the cat flap.
- full-time indoor domestic cats express their innate skills on toys designed for the purpose – main page on cat play: cat games to play. There is perhaps a tendency for cat caretakers to allow this drive to go unrecognised and unexpressed.
- domestic cats turned feral on small islands have had an impact on native wildlife.
- there is a lack of objective thinking and accurate data on the impact of feral cats on birds despite what the bird conservationists say (how feral cats affect wildlife).
- there is a competition between bird conservationists and feral cat protectors and carers (see feral cats of Los Angeles).
- In a German survey 40-60% of domestic cats fed by their owners had the remains of prey in their stomach65.
- Domestic cat prey varies around the world. Cats generally, however, take ground dwelling animals as they are easier to catch.
|North America (USA and Canada)||mice, ground squirrels, flying squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, robins|
|Europe||mice, voles, sparrows, fledgling birds|
|Southern Sweden||male cats hunt rabbits more than females|
|Tropics||spiders and insects|
|Sub-Antarctic islands||noddies (members of the tern family), terns and penguins|
|Australia||possums, reptiles, ground nesting birds|
- When cats stalk prey on cut lawns it causes a conflict because there is not enough cover. Tail swishing is a visible sign of mental conflict. Nose licking also indicates displacement behavior (the same as us scratching our head for example).
- The domestic cat is essentially crepuscular, hunting at dawn and dusk using its effective low light vision (cat’s eyes). However, it varies. It could be at night (in warmer weather) or at midday (in colder weather).
- Hunting reflects the activity of the domestic and feral cat’s prey.
- The classic domestic cat hunting strategy is waiting and watching patiently at a place where prey is likely to appear.
- Domestic, stray and feral cats use long grass as cover when stalking if available.
- A kitten instinctively knows how to pounce. Having stalked and pounced on prey the cat may position itself on its side to allow it to use its hind claws to rake the prey.
- Maine page on Social Play in the Domestic Cat.
- The best cat hunters are mothers followed feral cats67. Mother cats are approximately 3-4 times more efficient at catching prey than non-mothers68.
- Mothers delay killing prey, sometimes playing with it. There are good reasons for this: domestic cat hunting. A conflicting reason is give by Paul Leyhausen who says that play with killed prey is called, “overflow play” and is a release of tension after a difficult but successful hunt against a potentially prey such as a rat.
- Dr Bruce Fogle says, “few cats can catch birds”. Birds are less often eaten than ground dwelling animals as the feathers need plucking. Many wild cats pluck bird feathers carefully before feeding (cat eats a bird). Bird kills seem high because the bird is not eaten. See mouser cat.
- Main page on domestic cats and behavior including hunting.
- Cats can have a big impact of native species if these species live on small islands. There are documented cases.
- In my view not enough is known about the impact of feral cats on prey species such as birds. We don’t even know how many feral cats there are. The situation has become political, contentious and polarised.
- Main page on this: How feral cats affect wildlife.
- Main page on hunting birds: Domestic cats do not decimate bird populations.
- Domestic cats bringing prey back to our home could be a reflection of the wildcats habit of dragging prey to a hidden site as a food store for the next meal. The cougar buries prey under a twigs and leaves mound constructed for the purpose.
- In Los Angeles (at April 2010) the authorities have stopped the support of the city for people practicing TNR on the basis that it affects bird populations and has no benefit to the feral cat population.
- There is concern over the impact of feral, stray and domestic cats on wildlife. Some places implemented schemes to try and limit cat hunting:
|1989||Melbourne||Dusk to dawn curfew of pet cats|
|1940s||Illinois, USA||Restricting cats to homes|
|Current?||Switzerland||Cats must return to their homes at night|
- Cats need to exercise their innate desire to hunt. We owe to them as their caretakers to ensure that it can be expressed. This means plenty of play when appropriate.
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A Suitable Environment
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cat behavior – notes
60 Altricial – Meaning “requiring nourishment”, refers to a pattern of growth and development in organisms which are incapable of moving around on their own soon after hatching or being born – source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altricial