The Curious Case Of Cats Social Behavior

The Curious Case Of Cats Social Behavior

It’s said that there are two types of people in the world, cat people and dog people. Cat people are thought to be aloof, but not empathetic and loving, but are more cold. Dog people are thought to be warm and openly emotive. Read on to learn more on the curious case of cats and social behavior.

This comparison stems from the distinct difference between the observable surface behaviors in each type of pet.  The question is:

  • ​Are cats cold and distant?
  • ​Do they care about their owner?
  • ​Do they care about other cats?
  • How do cats make associations?
  • Why are they so different from humans?

​The complexity of animal interactions can and does fill whole textbooks.  For us to begin to understand why our pets are how they are now. First, we have to look at their natural habits and life cycle.

Cats of various types typically have a matriarchal dominated structure with litters.  Litters rely on their mothers for a majority of the hunting, feeding, and training that shapes their personalities when young.

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​What mothers hunt, cats learn to hunt. While the genetics of fathers play a role in how playful or aggressive a cat can be, socializing is one of the keys to understanding why a cat is more fearful or open.

The developmental period of cats that determines how social they will be is within their first few weeks. During this time, if cats aren’t handled or exposed to people, they will be less trusting and will be more afraid for the majority of their lives.  While they will warm up to certain people, bonding plays a part and the ability to move beyond that bond matters.

The Differences Between People & Cats

Cats don’t feel the need to associate or follow orders. It’s one of the main reasons that to humans they are untrainable. Cats have a different structure of sociability based on their need to survive. Humans have to associate with each other to survive.

Dogs are also based on being social due to being pack hunters as well to survive. Cats are primarily hunters of smaller prey, and for this reason, they associate with humans well.

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Cats are solitary hunters, and for this reason, they don’t necessarily react when many of them are placed in one area.  Cats, unlike dogs and people, are nondomination when they are the alpha. They don’t fight over territory; they merely mark it through means such as spraying or leaving fecal matter behind.

  1. When cats see each other in the wild, they will either ignore or patiently wait for the other to leave.
  2. They are usually non-confrontational in the household with other cats unless for play.
  3. It’s not that cats are anti-social, it’s that they don’t have an interest and prefer to keep themselves entertained.

Cat Interactions With People & Other Cats

To break it down further, cats do form associations.  Because their hierarchy isn’t structured in a way based on necessity but choice, there is less pressure.  Cats prefer to be avoidant, but when they do form groups, it’s not a general association.  Cats form connections to other cats and people based on interest alone.   This can be from a young age where they associate with a person or another cat based on mutual area and shared resources or proximity.

Still, some cats are more solitary than others by nature and their socialization period will either only strengthen or slightly alleviate that nature.  As mentioned before, cat interactions with other cats are based on a mix of their temperament and what they are exposed to when they are young.

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While other factors such as resources, stress, and environment can play a part, the best way to introduce animals is to let them become accustomed to each other gradually.

Cat behavior with other cats can change over time, however. Based on their environment, cats may find each other more interesting over time and will begin to bond.  The difference can come down to age, type of cat, and personality.  Cats like people associate more easily based on that which they can find familiar. This means any similarities the cats share can lead to a stronger bond or a weaker one.

One thing that can offset how sociable cats are is their reproductive age. Female cats are rarely aggressive unless placed in the vicinity of a male cat that is attempting to mate or wandering too close.

Male cats are the more aggressive ones when it comes to other males if they are both of a similar age that has just reached sexual maturity. This aggression is mostly passive, either by playful nudging or met by an almost indifference or lack of acknowledging the other cat.

Cat Interactions With Other Pets

The reality that cats are natural predators extends to how they treat many other pets in the household. Cats treat dogs differently than they treat smaller animals. Many dogs are overly friendly or aggressive, meaning that cats can feel threatened or antagonistic towards them. Smaller animals have the opposite problem.

Smaller animals remind cats of their object phase where they felt the need to attack every little thing that moved. It was part of the training of the predatory nature that cats need in the wild to survive. Smaller animals can resemble a challenge or in many cases foods to your cat’s natural instincts.

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This means that any and every smaller pet that you have could be potentially in danger if it is newly introduced.  There are many horror stories of cats cleverly getting into bird cages, hamster cages, and more.  The only way to prevent situations like these is to socialize your cat early and train them to be around smaller animals without feeling the compulsion. Its success rate varies based on the cat.

In Closing

Your cat’s behavior is a complex mix of instinct, a collection of experiences, and its natural personality.  The ability to understand your cat comes from looking at it not in the context of human emotions or experience but in looking at your animal for what it is.  Cats may express things like affection and interest in ways that are similar to humans, but it is the differences that make them such unique animals.

Resources

​Wikipedia

Veterinary Manual

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