The lion in your living room: find out why cats are wild at heart

Your cat may like to cuddle, or run away at the sight of a vacuum cleaner, but they have actually retained many of their wild relative’s behaviours



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Cats are most active at dawn and dusk

Wild cats hunt at dawn and dusk, meaning they are crepuscular. Domestic cats mirror this behaviour. Many cat owners report being kept awake at night or being woken up early by their pet mewing and scratching at the door, or running up and down the hallways. They’re most active at these unsociable hours, just like their big cat relatives.



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Even pet cats love to stalk and pounce

Domestic cats show hunting behaviour even when they are not hungry. Pouncing and stalking can release feel-good hormones called endorphins, and cats need to carry out this behaviour to avoid frustration. The mechanics of how cats move when creeping up on a victim, whether its prey or a cat toy, are very much the same, suggesting that even though domestic cats have no need to hunt for their food, they still have the instinct.


Scratching furniture

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Marking their territory

In the wild, tigers and lions will often scratch trees as a way of communication. They will stand up on their hind legs and scratch the bark with their claws, to give the impression a much bigger cat has left the mark. So the next time your little lion is ruining your furniture, remember they’re just following their instincts and protecting your home from bigger cats.


Preference for heights

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Have you ever wondered why your cat loves climbing?

All cats usually feel safer off the ground than on it, which is probably why they love to clamber up on your cupboards and sleep on the sofa. Wild cats also have a preference for heights as it gives them a good vantage point of their surroundings.



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Marking you with the family scent

Cats can often be seen head-butting each other, the wall, or you. This is known as scent-marking and is when they release their scent through glands in their face. In doing this they are establishing a ‘family scent’, marking you as one of their own. Wild cats also do this to welcome each other back from a hunt or to mark their cubs.


Kneading forepaws

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Comforting behaviour for when they’re feeling kneady

No one is completely sure why cats do this. It is seen in the wild with young cubs that paw at their mother for comfort or while nursing, but it’s not seen in wild cats after adolescence. It has been argued that perhaps years of domestication have encouraged cats to retain their kitten-like behaviour.


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Photograph: Chris Erwinbrownpau


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