All aspects of a cat's natural behaviour are to do with 'making a living'. To survive from day to day the cats primary business is that of catching food and as a member of a species it sole objective is to reproduce. Each behavioural aspect of the cat is 'tuned' to one of these objectives.

It could be said that the behaviours can be divided into two distinct groups. However there is often an overlap in the direct motivation behind specific behavioural practices. For example, social organisation of territory plays an important role, not only in dividing living space so that mating and the rearing of young can be achieved without undue conflict but also serves to maximise prey to predator ratios - conflict between individuals over prey does not benefit the species as a whole.

Although wild cats are generally thought of as being primarily solitary animals, as opposed to wild dogs and wolves, which are by nature group or pack animals, social interaction is a primary motivation behind many behavioural aspects of there lives. Communication between cats then, plays an important part in their daily activities.

Other behavioural characteristics relate directly to the job of hunting and these serve to maximise the cats physiological adaptation to the task of catching prey. Although primarily solitary hunters, some species of cat, notably the lion, have adapted to hunt in social groups, thus maximising the chances of success in completing a kill.

Use the 'Behaviours Index' to the right of the page to learn more about specific cat behaviours.

Hunting Behaviours
Hunting Technique
Prey Capture
Adaptation to Prey

Social Behaviours
Communication
Territory
Mating
Raising Young

The Cat as Predator - It has often been said of the 'Big Cats' - and of many of the smaller wild cats too - that they are the perfect predator, a killing machine, designed with every part specially tuned for the art of hunting and catching prey.

Fur and Markings - The fur of the cat serves two distinct purposes - firstly it protects the animal against the extremes of its environment and secondly serves as camouflage to make the cat less easy to spot against the background of its habitat.

The Range of the cat - In terms of the wild cat, the word 'range, can have two distinct meanings. Firstly the range of a wild cat species can be interpreted as its distribution or geographical spread across a large area - 'ranging' across countries or contents. Secondly the 'home range' of an individual wild cat is broadly its 'neighbourhood' - the area in which it lives.

The Social Cat - It is said that cats in the wild are solitary animals - whilst this is true for the majority of the wild cat species for most of the time - there are times when the cat can become a ‘social’ animal, sharing its daily life with others of its species.

A Matter of Breeding - One of the most important factors leading to a strong species population is that of genetic diversity - some small populations within the cat family however are not only under attack from the pressures of hunting and habitat loss, but also from inbreeding and hybridisation.

Cats in Captivity - For thousands of years man has caged and enclosed many of the wild cat species. To varying degrees cats have been seen as status symbols to the rich, caged exhibits of ‘dangerous’ exotic animals or reluctant performers in circus extravaganzas - today their place in captivity has a whole different meaning - survival.