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A Guide to Supporting Your Cat’s Natural Instincts

Author bio: This post was submitted by Emma, a professional writer and blogger, with two furry friends and a lot of pet behavioral and pet health knowledge to share. She has written for numerous big animal magazines and health sites, and is a regular contributor to The Catington Post.

No matter how cute, gentle and cuddly your cat may look (and feel), she has a wild side. If your cat loves to curiously investigate items at home, chase and pounce on small toys, scratch at the door, and hang out at high spots, that is instinctive. Do not suppress it. It is not bad behavior. Instead, learn to support her instincts. 

This guide will help you make simple moves that will support the natural instincts of your cat.

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Cats are instinctively curious – give her a mystery

Although domestication has significantly altered the modern cat, they still maintain many of their survival instincts. Cats, unlike dogs, were stealth hunters. They developed deep curiosity as a way to discover food or avoid becoming a meal. Curiosity comes so naturally for a cat that we (humans) created the adage “curiosity killed the cat.” Just remember, it is a survival instinct.

Sometimes a cat’s curiosity could land her in trouble. For example, when you leave your purse unattended within your cat’s reach. You will probably discover later that your cat made it the object to satisfy her curiosity. Try to keep your cool. Rather than punish your cat, or withhold treats, give her another item to be nosey about. Provide a mysterious box to explore. A box packed with plenty of surprises to play with will encourage curiosity while keeping her busy and happy.

Cats love to scratch – provide a safe (inexpensive) place to do it

If your cat has been scratching and ruining your furniture, do not hit the roof. You may have noticed that your cat will keep doing it no matter what corrective action you may take. A cat’s urge to scratch is instinctive. She does it to keep her claws in good shape, stretch, and mark her territory boundaries. When your cat scratches, she keeps her muscles fit and claws healthy. 

You can support this instinctive behavior by setting up scratching poles at strategic spots in the house. Then direct her to the scratching posts while discouraging her from scratching your furniture. Most scratching posts are inexpensive and have textures that cats love to scratch. It will not take long before your cat abandons furniture and adopts the new scratch posts as her territory markers. 

Cats love to perch – keep them high

Cats are agile, skillful climbers. They love to hang out in high spots.

When she stays on a high shelf the entire day, do not think that she no longer likes you. She loves hanging out with you, but her instinct to keep watch over her territory is stronger. 

Cats love to stay in high places because their ancestors did it to survive. They would perch on trees and look out for any prey or predator. Modern cats like to perch on high shelves, especially if it is close to a window, and do the same. If your cat is ignoring her cat tree, double-check that it’s not wobbling which could scare her, or if it is around foreign objects like hanging plants or a shelf. If this is the case, consider moving the cat tree to a location she likes to hang out in. 

You can encourage this behavior by installing a comfortable cat perch next to the window or against a wall. Your kitty will thank you for it. 

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Cats love to play – play with them

Cats, especially kittens, are so playful that we (humans) coined the simile, as playful as a kitten. Kitties are energetic, enthusiastic, and lovely play buddies. If they cannot find someone or another cat to play with, they will quickly find a play object. It could be a sock, a toy, or anything your cat finds catching and of the correct size. 

Why do they love to play?
You may notice when your cat plays, she does lots of play activities. She sniffs, pounces, and rolls. As she does these, she learns how to hunt, socialize, and investigate their world. 

Help the kitty out and plan playtime. Alternatively, you could adopt another cat so she will have a playmate at all times. If there are moments your cat must be by herself, consider a pack of interactive toys that will keep her entertained and engaged.

Final thoughts

Most of the behaviors we find fascinating about cats are also instinctive. We may have domesticated our feline buddies ages ago. But, inside, they are still wild hunters surviving in a jungle. Some of these behaviors are vital to their health and wellness. So, do not suppress them. Instead, use this guide to encourage and support your cat’s instincts.