Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

The social lives of free-ranging cats.

Abstract

Despite the diversity of social situations in which cats live, the degree to which free-ranging cats (FRCs) are social is still debated. The aim of this review is to explore the literature on the social behavior of FRCs. A search of two major databases revealed that observations of intraspecies and interspecies social interactions have been conducted. The intraspecific social dynamics of FRCs differ based on group of cats surveyed. Some groups display strong social bonds and preferential affiliations, while other groups are more loosely associated and display little to no social interaction. Factors impacting FRC conspecific interactions include cat body size, cat social rank, cat individuality, cat age, relationship to conspecific (kin/familiar), cat sex, level of human caretaking, presence of food, the health of the individual, or sexual status of conspecifics. Interspecies interactions also occur with humans and wildlife. The human's sex and the weather conditions on the day of interaction have been shown to impact FRC social behavior. Interactions with wildlife were strongly linked to the timing of cat feeding events. These findings support the idea that FRCs are "social generalists" who display flexibility in their social behavior. The social lives of FRCs exist, are complex, and deserve further study.