The Natural Instincts of Cats

Cats naturally have the instincts to hunt, mate, knead, perch, and claim their territory. Learn what these instincts are and why they have them.


Cats are known for doing certain activities without being taught or trained.

These are called their natural instincts, and they include many activities that just simply come naturally to the animals.

The first instinct a cat gets when it is born is the instinct of suckling. A cat has a natural desire to be suckled by its mother. They need to have their mother’s nipples to suck on and get the natural milk that she provides. If a mother isn’t available, it’s very important that a substitute bottle represent a nipple that allows the cat to get milk.

The second instinct a cat obtains is the one to knead. Kneading is the phenomenon of scratching around on fabric or on its mother’s breast and signifies excitement or arousal. When a cat kneads, it is happy and comes naturally to cats as early as just a few days old.

Cats also have a sexual instinct. Domesticated cats know they want to chase after cats of the opposite sex. This instinct may begin at an age of just four or five months old. You need to be prepared. In the wild, cats are monogamous with their partner. But in domestication, cats can chase after whichever other cat they want. You can keep your cats from reproducing by spaying or neutering your animal once it reaches six or eight months of age.

A cat also has an instinct of hunting. It wants to go outside to find birds and rabbits. They have a natural desire to hunt. They want to show you that they are great hunters and can bring home prized catches. It’s important that you don’t scold your cat when it brings you a dead animal. It is quite proud of its find and thinks it's doing something great by bringing you a gift. When your cat tries to kill birds, it may present somewhat of a problem. Birds may not be healthy. Some birds possess certain diseases that can be deadly for cats. The best way to keep your cats from hunting is not to scold or hit your pet, but to keep them from being able to hunt.

The final major instinct a cat has is one of being territorial. Your cat probably has found a favorite spot to sit in the house and has laid its claim to that spot. That spot has become its “territory” and it sees that spot as its own, even though it may walk around the entire home. Outdoor cats will claim your entire property as its own. It will likely take a ceremonial walk around the entire property each morning, and maybe scratch some bark of a tree, in order to show the other neighborhood animals where its territory is.