The Territorial Cat

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, facing left
Paw prints coming forward

Greetings fellow feline sleuths! I’m on the scent of the territorial cat and how our worldview affects our behavior. Many humans don’t understand the way we think…

How Your Cat Sees Her 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. Our territory is our home and must be protected from predators.

Calico cat guarding it's territory

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.

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…

  • 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

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!

siamese cat sitting on table

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 scent mark her territory to show she still owns it and can feel safe in it. This is accomplished by face and body rubbing or pee marking.

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.” 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?

I’ll be investigating more about how cats use scent and scent markers to identify themselves and others…stay tuned!

Territory in Multi-cat Households

Territorial problems most often occur in a multi-cat household where the people don’t know how to read their cats’ signals. Usually these cats weren’t properly introduced in the beginning. So they haven’t accepted each other and can’t share the same territory peacefully.

multiple cat household

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. We cats 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 it’s gotten this far or if the problem seems complex. Some behaviorists will do phone or in-home consultations.

Territorial “Cattitudes”

There are three basic “cattitude” mindsets your territorial cat can be in. If he’s 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. He’s what cat behaviorist, Jackson Galaxy, calls, a “Mojo Cat”, secure in his territory and wild instincts.

The other two mindsets happen when he’s insecure in his ownership. He’s either a “Napoleon Cat” (chasing, dominating, possessive bully) or a “Wallflower Cat” (fearful, hiding, defensive, “hugging” the wall).

two ginger tabbies

Your cat fits into one of these three mindsets and can change when new cats, dogs, or other critters are introduced into his world. Any new cats you bring into your household change this balance of ownership immensely.

If you don’t properly introduce them so they can be accepted as friend and not foe, you’ll have problems. 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.

I’ll continue to follow the trails that reveal how to have peace in your feline household. In the meantime, you can check the sources listed below for more information about your territorial cat…


Cat Behavior…Is My Cat Nuts?Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Box?
Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?

SOURCES

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary. Primary are always preferable and have the most reliable information because primary sources are 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. Thus, 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, http://www.catwhispererproducts.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, https://catbehaviorassociates.com/

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, 1992

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, www.thunderbaybooks.com