The Territorial Cat - Cat Info Detective

The Territorial Cat

Skye Blake looking left through magnifying glass

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.

paw prints coming in from a distance

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?

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)

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.

Siamese, ginger, white tabby cats fighting

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 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. He’s what cat behaviorist, Jackson Galaxy, calls, a “Mojo Cat”.
  • Insecure in his territorial ownership and worried about his shrinking world. He’s a “Napoleon Cat”, a chasing, dominating bully
  • Also insecure in her world and ownership, a “Wallflower Cat” has no confidence and is fearful. She hides, is defensive, 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 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. 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 these related pages…

Cat Behavior…Is My Cat Nuts?Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Box?
Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?Moving With a Cat…An Adventure!
You & Your Traveling CatHow to Train a Cat

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, 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

Updated Jun, 2022

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