Practical feline behaviour understanding cat behaviour and improving welfare

(Axel Boer) #1
44 Chapter 4

Home ranges

The ‘home range’ is the area over which a cat will regularly roam. This includes:

● The territory: the area that the cat will actively defend from other cats that are not
a part of the same social group; and
● The core territory: situated within the territory. The area where the cat feels most
secure. For pet cats this is usually within its owner’s home.

An intact (unneutered) male’s home range is on average around three and half times
larger than that of a female (Bradshaw et al., 2012). The size of the home range is influ-
enced by what the cat considers to be of most importance, including the number of other
cats in the area; for females this is overall cat density and for males it is the number of
receptive females in the area. For both sexes, the availability of food and/or prey is also
important (Liberg and Sandell, 1988). A male’s home range can vary in size at different
times of the year, being generally larger during the mating season but this is not the case
for neutered cats, which show no seasonal difference in home range size. Neutering also
seems to significantly alter the size of the home range for both sexes, being much smaller
for neutered than sexually entire cats. All cats, regardless of sexual status, appear to roam
further at night than during the day (Thomas et al., 2014; Kitts-Morgan et al., 2015).

The social behaviour of pet cats

The effects of neutering

The majority of owned cats in the UK over the age of 6–12 months are neutered
(Murray et al., 2009). Neutering can have a significant influence on a cat’s behaviour,
especially social behaviour with other cats.
Neutering is the removal of the reproductive organs to prevent sexual activity
and unwanted pregnancies. It also prevents, alters or modifies other hormonally influ-
enced behaviour. Neutering to prevent unwanted behaviour is most successful if
performed at or before puberty.
Castration is the removal of the testes (testicles) of male cats. Castration can
significantly reduce sexually motivated behaviour such as urine marking and fighting
with other males. Castration increases the chances, but does not guarantee, that a
male cat will be able to live alongside other cats.
Spaying is the removal of the uterus and ovaries of female cats. Spayed females
do not have reproductive cycles (see Chapter 5) so do not attract males or display
behaviours associated with being in oestrus.

Social groupings in multi-cat households

The number of cats kept in individual households can vary tremendously, as can the
housing conditions and availability of space and resources. It should never be
assumed that because pet cats live together they are, or will become, close compan-
ions, even if they have had a close feline companion previously. Unlike wild, stray or
feral cats, house cats have no choice as to the number, sex or relatedness of other cats
they are compelled to share their home with.

Free download pdf