How does evolution play in how cats behave?

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Cats are highly evolved small predators. Their skills at finding and capturing mice and other vermin are legendary. Bringing to bear physical abilities of sight, hearing, and scent far greater than our own, cats are also capable of incredible feats of strategic acrobatic hunting.

These skills are inbred in a cat’s genetic make-up and are awakened in kittenhood by the pouncing, rough-house play humans find so charming. When a tiny kitten fluffs out its fur and pounces on a shoelace, we gush about how adorable it is. What the cat is actually doing, however, is honing its ability to time an attack, weapons at the ready.

We like to think of our domestic companions as just lazy, sweet lumps of purring love, which they are with us. But, we aren’t mice. If you watch almost every action a cat engages in while at play, it’s motivated by the animal’s instinct to stay literally “on top of the game.”

Consequently, cat’s interpret their world from the perspective of their predatory evolution. While it is certainly possible for cats to ignore their instincts, as some unusual pet friendships have proven, at the base level, Fluffy doesn’t hate Tweety for personal reasons. It’s just business. Tweety is prey.

Unlike dogs, who are pack animals, cats are lone hunters. They will live in groups and form friendships, but they have a solitary streak that is undeniable and no innate need to please. A cat answers to himself, and much of the call he hears is the pull of his own instincts to be just what he is, a cat.

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