The Social Structure Of Cats

The Social Structure Of Cats

Unlike humans and dogs, cats are solitary creatures. This doesn't mean that they cannot exist in groups but rather that they don't feel the need to socialize. Most felines are like this, with the exception of lions. Cat owners often wonder why cats don't show affection openly โ€“ the answer is simple, they don't have the need for affection or socializing like humans. Depending on the food resources and the number of cats in an area, some feral cats do form groups but this is more for protection than for companionship.How social a cat is also depends on it's owners. For example, if you bring a kitten home and train it to play and interact with other humans and pets then it most likely will grow up and retain the same characteristics. However, even in these cases cats do need their alone time.


Most cats have their own territory where they feel secure enough to eat, sleep and even interact with other cats. This area is established through scents from their facial glands, anal glands, urine and feces. Dividing an area into territories reduces conflicts amongst cats, especially feral ones. If a random cat enters another cat's territory, it is likely to be chased off or get into a fight.For house cats, their territorial areas are less defined as they consider the entire house to be their safe area. When another cat is introduced in the house, they either form separate territories or live together. They often do not feel the need to interact with each other even when living together, unless the owner initiates it.


Feral cats often form colonies for food, protection and offspring rearing. Interestingly, unlike humans, cat colonies are female-centered and tend to have loose hierarchies. Male cats tend to roam around and mix with different groups, based on the female's decision to either accept or reject him. Female cats raise all their kittens together and will feed each others kittens if needed. Some female cats also act as midwives for other cats giving birth.While the social structure works well, it is not as set as dog packs or other canine packs. The Alpha Cat is often easily replaced and controls only certain areas. With environmental changes, alpha cats may not be considered alpha cats anymore. This could also happen when new cats are introduced into the group.Within the house, cats view petting as mutual grooming. Cats that bury their feces likely consider their humans to be the Alpha Cat in that situation.To put it simply, cats are social creatures but their socializing is not the same as ours. They can form long-term relationships, groups and some even experience separation anxiety.

How to Help Your Kitten Socialize With New People

Cats that are actively socialized tend to be less afraid in unfamiliar situations or unpleasant changes in the environment. Kittenhood is the perfect time to teach your cat to enjoy the various sights and sounds, other people and animals. If you pair the new experiences with rewards, it will boost your kittenโ€™s confidence.Just like puppies do, kittens also have a prime period for socialization. But while puppies have socialization classes, kitten socialization is still a relatively new phenomenon. But if you plan the right experiences, you can help her socialize on your own.

When to start?

Your kitten needs proper socialization when he is young. The main window is from 2 weeks to 7 weeks of age, but in some cases, it can go up to 14 weeks. It is around this time that your cat will be most receptive to new experiences. Moreover, kittens are not usually brought home till they are at least 7 weeks of age, which makes it imperative for you to select a breeder who will provide your cat with plenty of experiences during the early weeks.Kittens also need to be protected from parasites and infectious diseases before they begin socializing. Kittens get antibodies from their mothers, which last for a few months. After that, they are more vulnerable to diseases. Feline vaccinations are given in a series and last till they are 16 weeks old. It is around this time that they might be exposed to new people, but you must take care to shelter them from other cats. Follow your vetโ€™s advice about when it is safe for you to expose your kitten to his feline compatriots.

Positive exposure

Make sure that your kitten is accustomed to being handled by a wide variety of people and being touched in different places, like the paws, ears, belly and mouth. You must also offer your kitten a wide variety of opportunities to explore and interact with the world around them. If you combine different situations with rewards and positive reinforcement, you are increasing the chances of your kitten growing into a confident cat.

Create a schedule

Make yourself a list of things that your kitten is likely to experience during his lifetime. Use the list to come up with a schedule. Here are a few suggestions for situations that you must expose your cat to:


  • Car ride
  • Crate
  • Veterinary office (including exam table, scale, restraint and handling)
  • House situations (cleaning, suing different tools, music, working)
  • Outside (on a harness)
  • Groomers


  • Other kittens and cats (all vaccinated and well-socialized)
  • Dogs
  • Birds
  • Farm animals


Was this article helpful?

You May Also Like

Image for Common Behavioral Problems in Older Cats
Common Behavioral Problems in Older Cats

Common Behavioral Issues in Aging Cats and How to Address Them

Read More
Image for How to Keep Your Cat Happy and Engaged Always?
How to Keep Your Cat Happy and Engaged Always?

A Happy Cat Ensures Good Health and a Long Life

Read More