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Dr Platzhund
2 minute read
24 May 2014
10:00 am

Enigmatic cat communities

Dr Platzhund

Research carried out overseas has proved that free-roaming cats receiving hand-outs from "compassionate" members of the public, cataholics, can artificially and unhealthily increase the cat population density from five per 100 hectares to 2 000 cats for the same area.

Picture: Freeimages.com.

If the cats were left alone to depend on rodents, reptiles, insects and birds then they would maintain a stable viable small manageable pounce of cats with less illness, inbreeding deformities, less cancer and a reduced need to trap and sterilise or euthanase.

With the increase in cat numbers, the young males will have to find new territory and home range space which triggers their instinctive move to migrate into residential areas where there is a further source of food and greater potential for social behaviour among pet cats in houses, townhouses and cluster complexes.

Cat colonies which form are usually female-orientated, usually related, matriarchal, with their sub-adult young. A breeding tom will defend this colony from other male intruders. New colony members are recruited from the sub-adult female descendants.

Once male kittens attain puberty they are expelled. The female line continues although the tomcat line is often abruptly altered where the dominant male is ousted from his domain.

When pet cats are not sterilised and revert to a feral lifestyle they create enriched social systems that are both qualitatively and quantitatively more profound than most other domestic animals going back to their wild state such as cattle, dogs and horses. The reason being, cats are the least domesticated of pets, they are highly predatory and do not develop a bond with people like dogs do.

Once cats enter strange territories which may be vastly different and inhospitable they develop or adopt an increasing variety of group activities to deal with the new conditions. No wonder there are an estimated 600 million cats in the world today, of which 50% do not depend on people at all.

How does one compare a cluster of cats on a farm or in a forest to those in factories, to those in townhouses and to those felinophiles who harbour more than 40 cats in one apartment? From a perspective of feline behaviourists and researchers all the natural aspects of range, territory and distances become intriguing in the cat’s instinctive adaptation in different environments.

One has to observe the traits from the birth of kittens through to puberty, the removal of individuals, the introduction of others, the amount of freedom allowed to venture in the neighbourhood and the interaction between sexes, colonies and individuals.

When behavioural problems occur due to social stress exhibited by urine-spraying, defecating in inappropriate areas, fighting and excessive vocalisation, one of the most important considerations for any feline behaviourist or veterinary ethologist are the factors of social distances between individual cats.

The dynamics of feline social behaviour is such that each day may be different. The presence of a human visitor will drastically alter the flight distance of one individual. Attention given to a kitten may affect the personal distance of an established queen. Someone sitting on a particular chair may seriously encroach on the critical distance of the territorially dominant tom.

The slightest changes can be catalysts for problems. Each case is unique.