Are small wild cats social?

Peruvian Ocelot Caught by Camera Trap
Peruvian Ocelot Caught by Camera Trap. I believe the photo to be in the public domain.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment written by visitors. It is a way visitors can contribute to animal welfare without much effort and no financial cost. Please comment. It helps this website too which at heart is about cat welfare.

The unequivocal answer to the question in the title is NO. It’s interesting that the domestic cat has evolved through 10,000 years of domestication to become social but their wild cat ancestor isn’t and the same applies across all the small wild cat species.

“As far as is known, the social system of all 30 small wild cat species are completely asocial.”

Jim Sanderson and Patrick Watson – Small Wild Cats

The phrase “as far as is known” is pertinent because not enough, even in 2023, is known about the small wild cat species. There are still some holes in our knowledge. However, those that have been carefully studied demonstrate a solitary existence except when they meet up with a female to mate and procreate.

But outside the breeding season interactions between same-sex cats of the same species is invariably agonistic, full of aggression and fury and sometimes blood in defending their home range.

The intention of individual small wild cats is to avoid each other which they achieve through marking territory in urine spraying, scratch marks and defecation at primary spots around their home range. These ‘calling cards’ help to keep them apart which improves the prospects of survival because it avoid fights.

RELATED: Cat Marking Territory | Home Ranges | Cat Spraying

Often within the male, small wild cat home range there will be smaller female home ranges of which there might be several. The smaller home ranges are defended by the female cats in the same way.

The male has access to these females for mating but not for socialising.

The chart below applies to TIGERS but the same basic rules apply to small wild cats

Tiger land tenure system
Tiger land tenure system. Infographic by MikeB at PoC.

Independence and establishing a home range

A great danger for male cats occurs they become independent and leave their natal den to establish their own home range. They might have to cross the home ranges of other male cats and it can be difficult for them to establish their own home. It’s a time when some won’t survive and some will travel long distances to get what they want. They have to move swiftly through any resident adult male’s home range or risk death from an encounter. And the resident male will probably be stronger and certainly more experienced than the young adult who’s just become independent.

Female independence

Sub-adult females (young adults) will try to become established when they “carve out” and area sufficient enough to feed themselves within the area of a male cat’s home range or it might not be within a male cats home range. It depends upon the circumstances.

A newly independent female cat can establish their home range within the home range of a resident’s female cat because they allow it provided there is sufficient space. This is one of the differences between males and females. And if this happens and the resident female’s home range is encompassed by a male home range, the male will show no interest in this alteration to the social landscape. For the male cat, the females are there for procreation purposes only.

The social system of the small wild cat species is in great contrast to that of the dog family of which some species are highly social.

Leave a Comment

follow it link and logo