What is normal cat behaviour?

Behaviour logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010

Every cat is unique, however unusual levels of grooming or hiding or changes in eating or toilet routines are causes for concern. As is sleeping in a hunched pose, and spraying indoors. Aggressive or unsociable behaviour is also a sign of an unhappy or unwell cat.

Top tips for cats to behave normally:

Cat hiding © Andrew Forsyth / RSPCA Photolibrary

You should try to be vigilant to changes in your cat's behaviour. Changes could be a sign of distress, boredom, illness or injury, stress or fear. Signs to look out for:

  • High levels of grooming, hiding, sleeping hunched or altered feeding/toileting habits as well as spraying indoors all indicate stress or fear
  • Unwanted habits such as aggression, spraying indoors, disappearing or avoiding people all suggest your cat being in pain or frightened.

If any of these symptoms become an ongoing problem speak to a vet or clinical animal behaviourist.

  • Cats can scare easily, so make sure they can reach everything they need (e.g. bed, water, litter or outdoors) without passing things or other animals that may frighten them.
    If your cat is scared with no place to escape and hide, they may become aggressive. Provide constant access to safe hiding places where they can escape if they feel afraid.
  • Cats sleep for many hours of the day, but when they're awake they need opportunities to exercise. If they don't go outside, provide suitable indoor activities to keep them active. Read more about keeping cats indoors.
  • Play is a good way for your cat to be active and have fun. Provide safe toys and regular opportunities to play alone and with people.  Puzzle feeders or hiding dried food are both good ways to entertain your cat at meal times. Check out our online shop for playtime ideas.
  • Cats naturally use objects to scratch, mark territory, strengthen muscles and sharpen their claws. To allow this natural behaviour, provide sturdy scratching posts which are tall enough for your cat to use fully stretched. This is particularly important for indoor cats..
  • Kindness is key! Never shout at or punish your cat, they are very unlikely to understand and can become more nervous or scared.

Preventing your cat from hunting wildlife

A cat's natural instinct is to hunt its prey but there is a real concern domestic cats are impacting the welfare of local wildlife. To help prevent your cat bringing home unwanted surprises, and to protect local wildlife, we recommend:

  • Restrict outdoor access at dusk and dawn when wildlife is most active, at least an hour before sunset and an hour after sunrise.
  • Restrict outdoor access after bad weather such as rain, to allow birds to come out and feed.
  • Attaching a bell to a quick-release safety collar.


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