Are all cats solitary animals?

Most wild cats lead solitary lives. Except for cheetahs and lions, adult wild cats live and hunt separately. By contrast, we know that the purpose of domestic cats is not to be solitary but to engage with humans and other animals including animals of the same species. We must therefore distinguish between wild and domestic cat. We should also remember that the domestic cat is one species of cat within the family of cats. It could be said therefore that three species of cat are not solitary: lion, cheetah and domestic cat.

Both lion and domestic cat are not solitary
Both lion and domestic cat are not solitary. Neither is the cheetah. Photo in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats


Despite criticism from the anti-cat brigade, that domestic cats are aloof and overly-independent, the domestic cat is a social animal often successfully living with other cats and dogs.

The inherent solitary nature of the domestic cat ancestor, the Far Eastern wildcat has been eroded by 10,000 years of adaptation through domestication.

To return to the wild cats, for those species that are solitary, the females are not always alone. Many spend a lot of time with their cubs in raising them.

Studies have shown that females of a wild cat species spend more than 80 percent of their lives either pregnant or accompanied by dependent offspring. Although this is probably only true where prey is sufficiently abundant to support a family (according to Mel and Fiona Sunquist, but it makes sense in terms of survival).

Where food is scarce females can go for a year or more without having a litter of cubs. Of course, males and females meet to procreate.

There are also occasional encounters between solitary felids and they do communicate through scrape markings on the ground, scent marks and sounds. Are they still solitary under these circumstances?

Their home ranges often overlap and they probably know roughly where each other is at any one time. For instance, the male ocelot’s home range will include the home ranges of three females. The same for the tiger where the male is strong and dominant. For lesser males they may be lucky to monopolize a single female.

Where there are lots of females in a high density a male can monopolize several females.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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