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Published on February 19th, 2016 | by Debbie Martin


The Secret Life of Your Cat Part 1

With over 10 million cats in the UK, do we really know what they get up to 24/7?

A domestic cat is a complex creature, that we still know relatively little about, the secret life of your cat. However, attempting to understand what kind of environment they prefer to occupy, their social structure and feeding patterns can have a siGetting-a-new-kittensignificant benefit to their quality of life and how we look after them.

Recent studies undertaken in association the RCVS tracked a number of cat’s activity over the space of a week using advanced GPS collars in an attempt to understand the secret life of cats.


So what did they find out beyond the cat flap…

Cats are territorial creatures, and their territory is extremely important to them. A territory is considered to be a space which envelops the resources a cat needs to survive, breed, thrive and carry outs its normal repertoire.

In built up areas most cats spend as little as 20% of their time outside of their own territory. This may extend to never leaving the comfort of the house to go outside. Cats will only go outside because they feel like it, not because they need to.  When they do venture outside they will often encounter other cats, and this can lead to potential confrontation.

Although cats are extremely territorial, they will go to great lengths to avoid physical confrontation. As a solitary animal, it makes good survival sense for them to avoid any situation which may lead to an injury. This includes getting into a scrap with the cat next door. Cats will use body language and verbal communication to defend their territory and ward off any unwanted feline visitors.

Unfortunately, in high population areas, neighbouring cat’s territories may often overlap and this can lead to a great deal of stress for all parties involved.

The recent studies conducted to uncover the secret life of cats, unearthed a rather interesting finding which indicates cats may be adapting their behaviours to cope with expanding feline populations.

GPS data indicated that neighbouring cats sharing the same territory would ‘time shift’. For example, one cat would be active in the territory in the day, whilst a neighbouring cat would occupy the same territory at night.

So how do they know which cat takes which shift?

Cats use scent to mark their territory, both from scent glands on their face and also from their paws when scratching. These scent markings not only act as a boundary, but also as a time stamp. It says to other cats, ‘this is my patch and I come her at night’. This seemingly allows cats living in close proximity to adopt a shift system and avoid confrontation.

The other innate behaviour which dictates much of what cats do when we are in bed relates to hunting. The cat has evolved physically and behaviourally to be a specialist hunter and top of the food chain predator. They have extremely good eyesight in the dark and have a much broader range of sound than any other mammal.

It could be argued that a domestic cat has no need to hunt, however researchers argue that cats have retained their hunter instinct for good reason.

Some 900 years ago, cats and humans first established a working relationship in the agricultural industry. Farmers would provide shelter and food in exchange for controlling vermin which would destroy crops and food. Therefore, it was highly beneficial for cats to hold onto their wild side.

So with 10 million cats in the UK going out every night hunting our indigenous wildlife surely we would be seeing dwindling numbers now.

Secret filming reveals that our feline friends still have a strong hunt urge, however actual kills are fairly minimal. Further investigations may have revealed why. Our night time hunters have a different prey in mind – the neighbouring cat’s food bowl!




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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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