Saturday, November 24, 2007

Are cats solitary animals?

Photo - Reproduced under creative commons - credit: Tidwater Muse (Flickr)

It seems that a lot of people think that cats are solitary, selfish and will do as they please and are a bit aloof etc. I just don't see this.

First, it is worth remembering that cats domesticated themselves 9,500 years ago. In other words they liked what they could get out of a relationship with us and decided to hang around. That's pretty much what we do human to human when we form relationships and humans categorically need humans. It is very hard to live alone.

Then most cats accept and get along with visitors to the home. Mine actually runs for the nearest hiding place but that's because she's scared (bad start in life as a stray cat). Cats see us as large cats and get on well with us. It indicates a great degree of social adaptability. Would you live with another animal that was as high as a small block of flats and feel comfortable?

If things go wrong in the relationship it is usually us who caused it as cats react to situations and don't take unilateral steps to achieve something.

There was a story not so long ago of a cat that lived in an old peoples home and when the person was going to die he would sit with them. True story.

Under certain circumstances cats will adopt and nuture another cat's kittens demonstrating a high degree of altruism in comparison to a lot of humans.

Feral cats are a particular example of groups of cats living together. Groups of feral cats are a common sight. I can remember going on a holiday in Italy and staying at a good hotel. There were at least 20 feral cats outside the window. One of the cats was blind and he smelt his way to the food. When it got cold one cat would sit on the other; good teamwork.

When you throw food to a group of feral cats you don't get a mass fight; you get a calm queue forming British style :-) More signs of sociability and co-operation amongst cats.

The cat is adaptable. Given a chance and more space he may become more solitary but he is able to adapt.

One other factor; we keep cats as kittens by mothering them all their lives. Kittens are mentally more playful with other creatures and accepting, which facilitates a more sociable approach.

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