Welfare of cats: normal behaviour patterns

The way a cat behaves is individual and depends on its age, breed or type and past experience. Most cats are playful, sociable animals and they enjoy playing together with toys, people and other cats. Changes in behaviour may suggest that something is wrong with a cat's health.

What your cat needs

How a cat behaves depends on its age, personality and past experiences.

Most cats are playful animals and enjoy socialising with people. Cats like to play with toys and those that do not go outside often play at hunting indoors. Some cats, especially those that live outdoors, may be less sociable with people and other animals.

Cats sleep for many hours each day. When they are awake they need opportunities to exercise and play. Additionally, all cats need a suitable scratching place, high enough to allow them to stretch out fully, to mark their territory and condition their claws.

Any change in behaviour may suggest that your cat is distressed and needs help.

Scratching or 'claw conditioning' is part of normal cat behaviour. Cats condition their claws for various reasons, and regular scratching removes the frayed and worn outer claws, exposing the new and sharper claws growing underneath. It also exercises and strengthens the muscles used when the claws move in and out of the paw, which is essential for a cat's normal behaviour of climbing and catching prey.

What your cat needs to behave normally

You should:

  • make sure your cat receives enough mental, social and physical stimulation to satisfy its individual behavioural needs
  • provide your cat with safe toys and regular opportunities to play with friendly people and by itself
  • make sure that your cat can rest undisturbed when it wants to
  • make sure your cat has opportunities to exercise each day to stay fit, happy and healthy
  • provide suitable indoor activities to keep your cat active, if it does not go outside
  • take advice from a vet or other suitably qualified cat care specialist. if you are unsure how much exercise your cat needs
  • make sure that your cat can reach all the things that it needs (for example bed, food, water, litter or outdoors) without having to get too close to things, people or other animals that may scare it
  • know how your cat behaves when fit, happy and healthy
  • seek advice from a vet or other suitably qualified cat care specialist if its behaviour changes or becomes a problem it could be distressed, bored, ill or injured
  • never shout at, or punish, your cat - it will not understand and will just become more nervous or scared
  • only use positive reward-based training, and avoid harsh, potentially painful, training methods
  • make sure children allow cats to exhibit normal behaviours

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