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Social behaviour of Cats

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THE COMMON myth is that cats are anti-social. Cats are social, but the social system of domestic cats differs from that of the domestic dog. Cats have neither been exposed to the same extent or direction of artificial selection that dogs have. For example, dogs have been bred or selectively bred to develop special qualities e.g. Sniffer dogs, hunting dogs, racing dogs, guard dogs.{{more}}

The basic feline social unit is that involving the Queen (mother) and kittens.

Weaning occurs between 5 and 8 weeks, although given the chance, some kittens will occasionally suckle much later.

Under free ranging situations, in the wild, where there are no restrictions on the relationship between Queen and kitten, kittens remain either with the queen or as part of her extended social group for the first 12 –

18 months of life. Male kittens more commonly leave the group before social maturity (2 – 4 years) than females do, although all combinations of groupings have been reported for cats.

Multiple generations of related females can be found in cats in the wild and they provide some degree of communal care for the young.

The number of domestic cats living in the wild appears to be directly dependent on the availability of food.

Most domestic cats are solitary or lone hunters. Their prey includes rats, birds, lizards etc.

Kittens will learn to prefer to hunt the prey species that their mother preferentially hunted. Pets can learn to prefer a certain texture or type of food.

While sexual maturity is early (6 months of age) breeding may be inhibited or suppressed in larger social groups, either directly through male interference with mating or indirectly by the social hierarchy that exists within the group.

Cats are induced ovulators, meaning that ovulation is induced by the actual sexual act.

High-ranking adult males will sometimes enter and take over a group, after beating up the dominant male of the group. They have also occasionally been reported to kill nursing kittens.

Paternity appears to be an important factor in determining the personality in cats. Toms that are adventurous, outgoing and friendly, appear to produce kittens of similar personality.

There appears to be genetically “unfriendly”, “timid” or “shy” cats for which no amount of handling can make much of a difference.

The role of early experience and exposure for kittens cannot be over emphasized. Kittens between 2 and 7 weeks of age that are handled by people are friendlier towards people and more outgoing and may have fewer problems with some forms of aggression.

Between 12 and 14 weeks of age, kittens switch from social play to social fighting and more predatory play. Early weaning will hasten this change.

Kittens of severely malnourished mothers while they were in the uterus, never behave normally.

Cats can scratch before, after or not at all when passing urine or stool, and they may or may not dig to cover it. All of these “elimination” behaviours are variants of “normal”.

Spraying (of urine on objects) is usually accompanied by elevation and quivering of the tail and possibly treading of the feet. This can also be termed a normal elimination behaviour in cats.

It is a common form of feline territorial marking behaviour.

Urine marking, roaming, and fighting with other cats are all affected by hormones and neutering or castration appears to reduce or prevent the occurrence of these problems.

For further information, contact: Dr. Collin Boyle
Unique Animal Care Co. Ltd.
Tele: 456 4981