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By Jean B. Townsend, VMD

As a lifelong cat-lover and as a veterinarian, I find myself frequently answering questions about cat behavior and management. I have started this website as a place to post articles of interest to cat-owners. I am trying to show that what your cat is doing is normal for him – it just may be annoying to you! Too often, people attribute cat behavior, such as urinating out of the pan, to spite or willfulness. All the cat is doing is what comes naturally! He wants to use a clean spot.

Much of the cat’s behavior derives from the fact that he is a hunter, first and foremost. He was designed to hunt – his legendary night vision, his ability to wait in ambush for long periods, his wonderful retractable claws, his instinct to chase after retreating objects, his constant grooming, his covering his waste, his nocturnal habits. All of these enhance his ability to hunt. But some of this causes clashes with his owners – prowling around at night, clawing the furniture, using somewhere besides the litter pan to urinate. But the cat is listening to his own instincts. It is we who are out of touch!

Another aspect of cat behavior that is misunderstood is his famous independence. What is that all about? Unlike dogs, and even humans for that matter, cats did not evolve to live in social groups. Animals with a social hierarchy have a slot for each member. With dogs, there is a pack leader and then the rest of the pack line up in slots under the leader. These arrangements help prevent fights and promote survival. Once kittens leave the security of the litter, however, they are on their own. They do not live in packs. This does not mean that cats cannot learn to live in groups, because they can. But it does mean that they do not have an inborn respect for a hierarchy – they all tend to be chiefs and not Indians! So you cannot order them to do things as you can a dog.

Does this mean that our cats do not need us? Of course not! We all have had the experience of calling our cat to sit on our lap, only to have him pretend deafness. Later, when we are sound asleep in the middle of the night, here he comes, purring and drooling and wanting reassurance and attention. Cat behaviorists point to this drooling as evidence that cats relate to us as they do to their mothers. The drooling is a hearkening back to when they nursed at their mother’s breast.

You can see that cats are misunderstood, even by the people who love them. This website is an attempt to help you understand your cat a bit better.

I have been a multiple cat owner for more than 40 years. I have been a veterinarian for nearly 20 years. I make house calls and nearly 65% of my patients are cats.

Visit my other site – – for more information on my credentials.

Contact me by e-mail at


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