Are Cats Social or Solitary Animals?

By Danielle (Ark on the Edge)

Not long ago saw a programme on British Television, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was called; so I apologise for that. However, this programme stated categorically that cats were naturally solitary creatures that didn’t enjoy being in other feline company.

I’ve personally studied animal behaviour and read a lot of articles on specifically feline behaviour, and what I’ve noticed is that each one has it owns opinions either: “cats are naturally solitary animals” or “cats enjoy the company of others”; to date I haven’t come across a piece which stated it depended on the individual animal.

Working in a rescue centre, which sees a high intake of cats of different, ages, breeds, temperaments – I can personally say I don’t think I could agree with either of the above statements; I have found cats who are naturally solitary and prefer their own company and despise other felines and animals and then on the flip side I have found cats that are totally dependent on one another to the extent that when they are separated, the stress that is seen in both cats is clearly evident.

For example, we had a cat come into us at Ark on the Edge, called Nellie. Nellie had severe dental problems and stayed with for a few months for treatment – during this time she was kept in our “office” area, as she was very social and didn’t enjoy being alone in a cat chalet; also in our office was Peeps – a very bad tempered Dutch female rabbit – within the space of a week – Nellie and Peeps began sleeping the same areas, and Nellie as soon as allowed to free roam the place, would jump into Peeps’ run to go to sleep – of course, it could be simply because the hay was comfy. Peeps also did not in the least bit seemed stressed or fazed by the fact that there was a “predator” in her area – Peeps simply ate, slept, played with her toys, not bothered by the cats presence.

Cat and rabbit in a pen (enclosure)

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Again, it brings to mind feral cats, who are immensely independent and do not particularly enjoy human contact (Ever tried to cuddle a true feral – if you valued your skin still attached to your body – I wouldn’t try).

I’ve also seen kittens – which were virtually attached to one another – grow up to actually hate being in the others presence!

Personally, I believe that it should depend on each individual feline and I was quite surprised to see a programme with “feline behaviourist researchers” state wholeheartedly that cats were solitary creatures, and they were surprised to find out that 6 cats were living quite happily together, with no issues

Interested to hear other people views and experiences on this?

Associate page: Sociable Domestic Cat – search results for “sociable domestic cat” on PoC (new window).


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6 thoughts on “Are Cats Social or Solitary Animals?”

  1. Very interesting article Danielle and I love the photo of Nellie and Peeps.
    I agree with everyone else who says it’s the cats purr-sonality which decides if he/she is social or solitary.

  2. Having owned both dogs and cats as pets i personally feel that cats are more attached to humans as a source of providing them food while dogs are permanently attached to a human owner, even if mistreated.Of course, there are a few exceptions to the stereotype and some cats are as attatched to their human owners as are dogs.A cat is more of an independent animal which loves solitary living unlike a dog which is a pack animal by nature and hence considers its human owner the “Alpha leader”.

  3. The programme was The Secret Life of Cats. Like both of you I think it depends on the situation and the individual cat. The feral colony I go to feed with Marion on a Sunday has both, there are cats there who are very social with one another, and ones who just hang round the outskirts of them.

    • You’re right. It is a mixture of the situation: food, space etc. and the cat’s personality (outgoing or shy) and gender.

      But generally speaking the domestic cat has become sociable. It evolved over the 9,500 years of domestication.

    • I agree – I mean I think they are totally social. Of course just as with humans, cats are all different and that can be by quite alot – there are for sure cats who are antisocial…. but most I have met are social with other cats and alot of those are also social with humans. I think there are many people out there, perhaps more dog people, or just people in general who just don’t ‘get’ cats and therefore conclude that they are not social. They don’t know how to communicate or be with cats. Especially for dog – centric people who are used to the ease with which you socialize with a dog – they just can’t see it that cats are very social. You can be alot more passive about it all with a dog and the dog will still be your friend whereas a cat is more like a human in the sense that you are not automatically friends.

      To all the people who think all cats are antisocial – humans are the same. They are independant and you spend time ‘getting to know’ them. There will always be opposing examples but I’d say it’s pretty much that simple.

  4. Thank you Danielle for another excellent article. For me the domestic cat is potentially sociable depending on the personality of the individual cat, which is what you are saying.

    The degree of sociability also depends on the food source. Where there is food a cat is more likely to be sociable as there will be other cats at that place and they have to get on to survive.

    The domestic cat has accepted the possibility of sociability whereas in the past, as a wild cat species, before domestication, this cat was solitary.

    You could say the modern domestic cat is a sociable animal (the default position) subject to the individual.

    Nice picture of Nellie and Peeps. I like to see different species getting along.


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