What is a cat ?

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Claire followed on Saturday a training given by Colette Pillonel, behaviouristic veterinarian, and organized by Philippe Bocion, also behavioristic veterinarian. Who is the cat ? Where does he come from ? How does he live ? What are his needs ? Why ?

It was fascinating ! Here are in brief some points of this presentation :

Family tree

The current carnivores (wolf, dog, fox, cat, tiger, lynx, bear, otter, weasel, badger, raccoon, genette, chive, hyena, …) have all one distant common ancestor : the Miacidae, a small primitive carnivore which lived 60 million years ago. Incredible, right ?
The first wildcats, the ancestors of the domestic cat, appear 2 million years ago.
The « domestic » cat appears 10000 years ago ; his ancestor is the wildcat of Africa. It looks like the cat got domesticated by himself, and that the human and him found a mutual profit in this cohabitation.


This process involves a controlled detention, the breeding, the abolition or the control of some behavior considered as unwanted (flight or aggressiveness), the control of the sexual behavior, the training, the possibility of manipulating the animal, of communicating with him, and the control of his strength.
We do not meet all these criteria, and all the domestic cats are not at the same stage of this process : 15 % of them are even resistant to any manipulation : the wildcat is not far !
The purebred cats (except the recent experimental crossings with wild cats, forbidden in Switzerland) are often better domesticated than their alley cousins, because the breeders select the “best” individuals to reproduce.
the wildcat is not far


We are more successful than humans : we see in the daytime and at night, we perceive the ultrasounds, our sense of smell is 14x more developed, our sense of balance is ultra successful (except when we sleep), our tactile hairs are sensitive to the slightest breath of air, and we communicate in a very precise manner by chemical messages (pheromones).


Hunt, play, climb, eat, drink, eliminate, have a wash, sleep : that seems easy, right ? The Swiss Protection of Animals gives you details here.
A cat can be perfectly happy in apartment, as far as his environment fulfills ALL his needs. It is thus necessary to adapt the environment to the cat, and not the opposite…
it is thus necessary to adapt the environment to the cat, and not the opposite


The cat is a solitary who can be sociable. There is not really hierarchy by cats, but rather some sense of opportunity : the one who arrives first, who is placed the highest, who is in the best place, or still who will know how to be the most curious in a given circumstance will have the advantage.

Territory and schedule

The cat is territorial, and follows a ritualized time organization. Each part of his territory has a very particular function ; it also depends on the moment of the day. Any modification of his spatial or temporal organization is usually very stressful for the cat.

Good to know

Unwanted behavior appears when the cat’s needs are not respected. If all the future cat owners inquired in detail about our needs, and about the various manners to meet them, there would be almost no more rescue cats…
home sweet home

29 thoughts on “What is a cat ?

  1. Sammy

    WOW….interesting information – we cats try to remain “mysterious” but it would seem that humans pretty well have us all figured out anyway! HAHAHA

    Hugs, Sammy

  2. Canadian Cats

    Wow, thanks for the info. So I’m not odd just another kitty with fantastic skills. Mol
    We loved the pictures of Zorro and Pixie that you used to get your message across.
    Thank you my friend.


  3. Deziz World

    Very innerestin’ posty. Altho’ we have to disagree, there is a hierarchy among cats. For lack of a better word, Cats in multicat households do have an alpha cat and it;s not always the cat who was there first or the longest. Otherwise, great article.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Raena

    1. The Swiss Cats

      We think that “hierarchy” is not the best word to describe the social organization in cats. We agree with the alpha cat (we noticed it with the farm cats), though, but why is he/she the alpha ? The idea that it’s the most opportunist cat who can become an alpha cat makes sense to us. Purrs

  4. easy rider

    I love that you are still the wild childs and I love your way to give a dislike :o) I read it today at layla’s and merlins blog, I must say that is brilliant!

  5. da tabbies o trout towne

    pixie & zorro, thanx two claire for sharin thiz post…we N joyed reedin it; therz sure sum info in heer… even WE az catz dinna noe bout !!! ☺☺☺♥♥♥

  6. The Menagerie Mom

    What a great post. You are so right in that, if people better understood cats and their basic needs and instincts, far less of them would be relinquished to shelters. Cats are extraordinary creatures indeed, and we just wish more people understood it that way. Thank you for sharing this excellent information!

  7. LP

    Great info! Cats are definitely fascinating creatures who can be kept happy quite easily if they are provided with the correct stimuli. We wish more people took the time to research and understand this.

    the critters in the cottage xo

  8. Dragonheart, Merlin, and Devi

    That sounds like a great training event! We Sphynx are definitely social creatures – we think that breeders have selected for that trait. Many say that Sphynx are more like dogs than cats, but we disagree – we are most certainly cats, even if we do demand a lot of attention!

    1. The Swiss Cats Post author

      It was ! And we’re looking forward to the three next ones about playing with cats, cat health, and cat nutrition ! Purrs

  9. Rosa @ Cat Lady Confidential

    Such great information! I had never heard about the Miacidae before. Last year I’ve watched a documentary about the lives of cats which was very interesting, but they didn’t focus on the history of the cats, but on their habits and characteristics.

  10. Raven

    Excellent post. I think it’s especially important to know a cat’s needs and to respect them so that you don’t get unwanted behaviors.

  11. Seville at Nerissa's Life

    An ancestor from sixty million years ago, huh? Hmmm.. I shall ask Peep #1 if she ever met one of ’em when she was little ’cause although I’m pretty sure she was alive way back then, I suspect she was just a young ‘un, herself. MOUSES!

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