How Cats Work

By: Joy H. Montgomery

Cat Behavior and Socialization

A scratching post provides a great outlet for playful cats to climb and sharpen their claws.
A scratching post provides a great outlet for playful cats to climb and sharpen their claws.

Socialization starts during the first few weeks of a kitten's life, when it bonds with its mother and other familiar cats. As a kitten begins to mature and is introduced to humans, it will also form attachments with care providers. Felines are certainly known to be finicky, and it's almost impossible to know how an individual cat will react to humans. Some cats may be friendly from day one, while others may always be standoffish, even if they're from the same litter.

Most of a cat's actions during play are similar to actions it would take when hunting. Some cats like to chase lasers around a room, which mimics the motions of pouncing on a mouse, while others enjoy lunging at feather toys, which is an example of trying to catch a bird. All cats are natural climbers, which is why cat trees are so popular among the kitty crowd. A good scratching post mimics a tree that a cat would use in the wild to sharpen its claws.


Cats have a variety of sounds they use to communicate with other animals and people. The most common sound is a "meow." When a cat meows, it's typically for attention. Perhaps the cat is really saying, "Feed me." Another sound cats commonly make is a purr. Most of the time, when a cat purrs, it's happy; however, there could be times when it's purring as a calming mechanism. Cats also hiss when they are mad or feeling particularly aggressive. Much like the lion's roar, this is a call to get out of the way.

Female kittens reach sexual maturity around five to nine months of age. Although male kittens might reach sexual maturity by five months, mating usually doesn't occur until nine to 12 months of age. Many humane organizations advocate spaying or neutering cats to prevent overpopulation. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) suggests kittens can be sterilized as young as eight weeks old, and all cats should be spayed or neutered by six months to prevent urine spraying or pregnancy [source: ASPCA].