Congratulations on thinking about adding a cat to your family! Cats make great pets and are one of the most popular furry family members! Understanding their general behaviour will help you decide whether a cat is the right pet for you, your family, and your lifestyle.
The cat-human relationship is like a “mother-kitten” relationship. Cats show their owners love by rubbing against a person’s leg, lying down to be petted, and kneading while being held. Cats can be left home alone for longer periods than dogs. However, they still need attention from their owners and can develop anxiety if left alone for too long or too often.
In general, cats are pretty attached to their house. Cats tend to have favourite spots where they can be likely found at different times of the day. In multi-cat households, cat social behaviour can be referred to as “living apart together”. This means that although your cat may not always want to be touched, it will likely want to be in the same room as you. If there is more than one cat in the household, they will “divide” the house into individual territories.
Although cats tend to space themselves out from each other, they do form social groups. Cats can recognize the individuals in their social group and will fend off "stranger" cats. This explains why cats may act negatively (e.g., hiss, run away, swat) at first towards new pets brought into the home. If a new cat continues to live in the home, it may eventually become a "group member". You can see why it is important to slowly introduce new cats to an existing cat household. See our introducing cats to pets page for more information. Cats can live with other cats (and even become friends!); they just need to be introduced more slowly.
American Association of Feline Practitioners. (2004). Understanding normal behaviour. In Feline behavior guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.catvets.com/public/PDFs/PracticeGuidelines/FelineBehaviorGLS.pdf
Beaver, B. (2003). Feline behavior: a guide for veterinarians. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company.