The Territorial Cat - Cat Info Detective

The Territorial Cat

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Greetings fellow feline sleuths! Skye Blake here… on the scent of the territorial cat.

How does our worldview affect our behavior? Many humans don’t understand the way we think.

paw prints coming in from a distance

Let’s discover more…

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides and explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, linking you to experts on each page. 

All sources are given at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping. 

How Your Cat Sees Her Territory

Calico cat guarding it's territory

At the heart of everything for all cats is territory, territory, territory!

It’s our whole world just like the earth, country, land and house is to you.

In the outside world, we felines are in the middle of the food chain… always hunting and being hunted.

cat balancing on fence ready to jump

Our territory is our home and must be protected from predators.

Your indoor kitty has the same worldview and has to hunt and protect herself from predators.

Anyone entering her territory is assessed by scent as either friend or foe and treated accordingly.

cat looking up intently

My fellow felines, both indoor and outdoor, view territory as more than just the ground or floor of a room.

It includes everything seen and smelled.

So even if your kitty stays indoors, she still considers her territory to include…

black cat sitting in grass
  • the world outside your window
  • the rooms you inhabit
  • vertical space like shelves, cat trees, counters and cabinets
  • everything within those areas… including you!

When Your Cat Feels Her Territory Shrinking

Siamese cat sitting on table

We of the feline persuasion have to own our territory. Anyone entering it is either friend or foe.

We’re happy to share it with others if they’re friends. But if we don’t recognize them, they’re foes.

Enemies in our territory makes us very insecure and must be driven out! INTRUDER ALERT!

cat lounging on cat tree

The more any cat feels her territory getting smaller, being taken over by a hostile cat, dog or new person, the worse her insecurity gets.

She feels the need then to take desperate measures.

She has to show she still owns it and can feel safe in it by scent mark her territory with face and body rubbing or pee marking.

cat lounging on cat tree

The litter box is an important scent marker. Take it from this fabulous feline, a cat’s litter box is something she owns.

It has her strongest scent and tells other cats “I live here. This is my territory.”

kitten in litter box

If you underestimate how important it is to her, you’ll be cleaning up a lot of pee… and it won’t be in the box!

Find out more about litter box problems at “Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?” and “Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Box?

Food & Territory

Calico cat guarding it's food

Food and where we eat is also territorial.

In the wild, we eat separately from where we drink or do our business, to avoid attracting predators.

In a house, we usually prefer eating in a quiet area out of traffic and away from other cats.

Discover more about our eating habits at “How to Feed a Cat“.

Territory in Multi-Cat Households

3 cats sleeping together

Territorial problems most often occur in a multi-cat household where the people don’t know how to read their cats’ signals.

The owners didn’t know how to properly introduce their cats in the beginning.

So, they haven’t accepted each other and can’t share the same territory peacefully.

siamese, ginger cats fighting (2)

This can lead to bullying about everything from where the weaker cat can safely walk to potty ambushes and inability to get to food.

There are always silent (or not-so-silent) clues leading up to an explosive cat fight.

You just have to learn how to see them and redirect the situation to keep the peace.

Siamese, ginger, white tabby cats fighting

We felines much prefer to avoid fights, so if it escalates that far, you’ve missed a lot of clues.

You may want to hire a cat behaviorist if they’re wanting to kill each other or you’re at your wits end.

Some behaviorists will do phone or in-home consultations.

Territorial Cat-titudes

two ginger tabbies

There are three basic “cat-titude” mindsets your territorial cat can be in…

  • Confident in his ownership he’s happy and calm in his world. He walks around with his tail in the air, self-assured and carefree.
  • Insecure in his territorial ownership and worried about his shrinking world, he’s a chasing, dominating bully
  • Also insecure in her world and ownership, a shrinking cat has no confidence and is fearful. She hides, is defensive, and hugs the walls instead of being in the middle of the room.
angry, hissing tabby cat

Your cat fits into one of these three mindsets and can change when new cats, dogs, or other critters come into his world.

Any new cats you bring into your household change this balance of ownership immensely.

If you don’t gradually introduce them your cat is less likely accept them as friends and you’ll have trouble.

This is true when cats meet dogs and children as well.

scared kitten meeting dog

There’ll be staring, growling, hissing, crouching, spraying, and all-out cat wars.

Each cat has to fight for his territory instead of accepting one another in it.

Understanding how your territorial cat sees the world around him gives you a foundation for dealing with behavioral problems.

Discover more at “Cat Behavior… Is My Cat Nuts?


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

“Cat Calls: Wonderful Stories and Practical Advice from a Veteran Cat Sitter”, by Jeanne Adlon and Susan Logan (c), Used by permisson. Square One Publishers (www.squareonepublishers.com), Garden City Park, NY, 2012, page 60

“The Cat Whisperer”, by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com

“The Inner Life of Cats, The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions”, by Thomas McNamee, Hachette Books, Hachette Book Group, New York, NY, 2017, www.hachettebooks.com

“Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss”, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011

“The Tiger on Your Couch, What the Big Cats Can Teach You About Living in Harmony with Your House Cat”, by Bill Fleming and Judy Petersen-Fleming, William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, NY, 1993

“Total Cat Mojo”, by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2017

“What Your Cat Wants”, by Francesca Riccomini, Thunder Bay Press, Octopus Publishing Group, San Diego, CA, 2012

Updated April 11, 2024

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