Are cats solitary? The answer depends on what species of cat you are referring to. The general answer is that the majority of felids (animals in the cat family) are solitary. Except for lions and male cheetahs, adult wildcats live and hunt separately. Male lions and cheetahs form coalitions to get access to females. Domestic, stray and feral cats sometimes live in groups. In single cat homes cats have a human as a companion and are not, therefore, solitary.
Females are not solitary in the sense that they spend a lot of time caring for cubs and kittens. Females may spend more than 80% of their time caring for offspring or being pregnant where prey is abundant. If prey is scarce females can go a year or more without bring up a litter of kittens. Also related females help each other in raising kittens. This is often seen with domestic cats on the internet. In the wild ‘many females are philanthropic and..neighbouring females are likely to be related’.
Female lions and domestic cats form groups to enhance reproductive success and territorial defence. – Fiona Sunquist in Wild Cats Of The World
The character and behaviour of domestic cats forms a bridge between the personality of the wild cat and domestication in an artificial human environment. The domestic cats has learned to be sociable and in many homes cats live in harmony with each other (many don’t, however). Yet they can be solitary in behaviour too when allowed to roam outside and express that inner wildcat personality. It seems to me that the domestic cat is on a long journey over a further few thousand years to becoming a purely social animal at which time it would be impossible to describe them as solitary.
Stray and feral cats (from domestic cats) form colonies around a food source. TNR volunteers feed, vaccinate and neuter feral cats in colonies. These cats can’t be described a solitary. Although they form friendships they often like their personal space.
Although felids are solitary they live in a social network of scents and sounds plus visual marks (scraps on the ground). Geographically they know where each other is and roughly when they were there because of the degrading scent of their urine markings. It is like wild cat radar.
The formation of groups by cats is a complex issue and Mel and Fiona Sunquist in their book Wild Cats of the World (upon which I have relied in this post and for the quotes) write that ‘we still do not completely understand the complexities of the issue’.
SOME MORE PAGES ON ‘COLONIES’: