Understanding your Kitten - mindset, body language & behavior

Whether you already own a kitten or you are considering welcoming one into your home, it is important to understand the unique traits and behavior that your feline friend can exhibit. Cats are fascinating creatures and can have a wide variety of traits and behaviors that set them apart from other animal species. 

Let´s start at the beginning: The ancestors of modern cats were more like small, primitive carnivores living in the wild. These ancient cats were likely the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) or the Chinese version of that species (Felis silvestris bieti). These two species are still found in the world today. 

The process of domestication for cats is still a bit of a mystery, but it began in the Middle East around 8000 BC. It is believed that cats started to evolve from hunting small rodents to living with humans voluntarily. Then they were being brought into human households to keep the rodent population down and were provided food in exchange for their services. 

The transition from wild to domestic cats was gradual. Some cats had apparently figured out that living with humans could be beneficial. Over time, they domestic traits evolved, such as a more docile temperament and more affectionate behavior. In addition, as cats became more trusting of humans, the selection process became more selective, favoring cats that were friendlier and more docile. 

Kitten Mindset

Why is it important to know about the descent of cats? Because the original traits still prevail in the domestic form to a certain degree. To put it in a nutshell: Wild cats are solitary (being together only during mating season and while rearing their young) and extremely territorial  hunters as well as prey to other animals. The domestic cats of today have adapted themselves by becoming more social and less solitary. In contrast to dogs, however, they are still a lot more independent, meaning they do not need constant company and sometimes enjoy having time to themselves.

Cats love to stick to their home. It is their territory. They usually hate moving to other places. Cats are also hunters: They might chase anything  that could be considered prey to them, especially small rodents like mice, squirrels and chipmunks as well as birds (including the young in the nest). Be aware that outdoor cats kill other animals. This can be an issue for the local bird population. An easy solution is to equip your kitten with a small bell on the collar - it reduces its hunting success targeted at birds by around 50%.

Besides being predators themselves, cats are also prey. Natural enemies includes various raptors and possibly wolves and coyotes. This is why kittens love to hide - we all know about their love for cardboard boxes or squatting underneath beds and sofas. They enjoy the comfortable feeling of a safe place. It is also the reason why it is important to provide a bed for your kitten, perhaps a cave type one, which is great for hiding and relaxing. See our page on beds and plush houses for more information.

Kitten Behavior 

When it comes to physical behavior, cats can be very affectionate although some are not. They can have very different personalities and not all kittens are alike. It is important to accept your pet they way it is and not force it to anything it does not want. For instance, do not hold your kitten against their will. Cats are known for their independence as well, as they usually don't feel the urge to depend on people or other animals for their well-being. 

This doesn't mean that kittens don't form strong bonds with their families, on the contrary, cats often like company and may even follow you around the house. If you own an affectionate kitten, you likely have noticed that they often like to be petted or scratched under the chin or the cheeks. This behavior is known as reaffirmation and it indicates that your cat is relaxed and feels secure with you. 

Kittens are extremely curious creatures with a wide area of curiosity that can span from objects within reach, to the various smells and sounds around them. Most cats display a cautious, yet adventurous, approach to exploring their environment. This natural curiosity is often a source of entertainment and can result in cats getting into hard to reach spots or generally curious places.

When it comes to agility, cats can maneuver themselves in almost any position and are known for being able to scale walls or other obstacles with ease. This is due to their average jumping ability and flexible bones. Cats are also agile when it comes to hunting, as they can identify and capture prey with great speed and accuracy

Regardless of whether a cat is an indoor or outdoor pet, be sure to provide them with plenty of stimulation. This includes incorporating daily play, plenty of toys, and even interactive toys that they can interact with like a scratching post or a cat tree. This allows cats to express their natural behaviors and can also help with their overall health and happiness. 

Kitten Vocalization & Basic Body Language

Kittens may also display a wide range of vocalizations, such as purring, meowing, hissing, chirping, and even growling. It is important to be aware of these different vocalizations and how it’s connected to your cat’s emotions. Mews, trills, chirps, and chirrups are sounds usually used to express that they are happy and contented and are cats’ way of saying hello. It can be delivered with a purr. Spit-chat is a combination of spitting and chattering. It is usually a sign that the cat is excited and vocalizing to show anticipation. They hiss when they either don´t like something or feel threatened, it is a defense mechanism, and they growl when they feel seriously threatened. Yowling is most often used to express distress or strong emotion. It is a very loud and often high-pitched vocalization.  Purring is often associated with contentment and comfort, but it can also be used as a request for food, attention, or a healthy dose of petting.

Cats are known for their unique and intricate body language. By paying close attention to their movements, positions, and facial expressions, we can gain valuable insights into their emotions and intentions. Here we will explore some common feline body language cues and decipher what they mean: