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Cat Tips

Why are Cats Territorial?

September 22, 2022

As adorable, cuddly, and playful as cats can be, they can also become extremely territorial if you’re not careful. Since cats are often living solo, they tend to be very protective over their home environment and beloved human friends. No matter how socialized or domestic your cat is, their natural territorial instinct is bound to come out at some point in your time together. Do not be alarmed if you notice a few random outbursts of more protective behavior from your kitty, this is almost inevitable. However, if your furry friend’s territorial behavior becomes aggressive to the point where you feel you or your guests are in danger, you must do some preventive training. Spot Pet Insurance is here to be a resource.

Origins of the Behavior

In the wild, cats are natural and predatory hunters. They are carnivores, no matter how long their ancestors have been domesticated as household pets. Even if your beloved kitten has never had to hunt or search for food to survive, their natural instinct will still hold strong. However, if your cat is not socialized when they’re young, they do tend to develop far more territorial tendencies than those who have grown up around other cats and humans.

Felines instinctively know how to protect their territory – especially male cats during mating season – and have to be aggressive in order to defend their home base. This is why if you do have a male cat that is not neutered, and he is docile and loving most of the time, his demeanor might change completely during mating season. Female cats can also be territorial, however, and no matter where you live, we can guarantee your cat has claimed a turf of some size or shape. This could be your apartment, your yard, or even your entire neighborhood, depending on how far your cat roams during the day. When cats feel as though their territory has been intruded, the aggressive and overly protective behaviors will appear.

Cats view their home range as different types of territories. Their core territory is where the cat feels completely safe and secure, such as their bed or their litterbox. Their hunting territory is a larger area and is where your cat knows he will eat or drink. If your cat was in the wild, this area may be quite large, but because your cat is domesticated this is typically an area of your home or your yard. Lastly, cats have shared or common territories – the area where they know they will be around other people, cats, or other animals. This is also where they do their socializing. Cats will tend to react if any of these three territories experience an unknown intruder, however they will be the most protective of their core territory.

Signs of Territorial Behavior in Cats

Cats claim their territory in a variety of ways. You may often see your feline rubbing their face or body on you, your furniture, or other miscellaneous objects around your house. Cats mainly mark territories based on smells, so this is their way of making sure their scent is covering your home so other cats will be aware exactly whose territory it is. In a similar fashion, your cat will also tend to scratch on items around your home, which not only leaves a scent but visible marks as well.

Another common way cats will claim their territories is by spraying urine around the area or anywhere outside of the litterbox. This can be annoying and problematic if you have an indoor cat, and you should contact your veterinarian if this behavior is happening frequently inside your home. This is a more problematic way of your cat scent-marking their territory but can often be a sign that your cat is feeling unsafe and stressed, as cats choose their method of leaving behind their scent based on their mental state.

If your cat’s territory is invaded, they will often become frightened or stressed. This triggers territorial aggression, which can commonly mean to chase, ambush, or attack the intruder, whether it be another cat or an unfamiliar human. They will also hiss, groan, swat, or bite if they feel their home base is threatened to warn the intruder that they have already claimed this area.

Dealing with Territorial Behavior

The first step to dealing with territorial behavior in felines is by understanding this behavior is natural and not uncommon to some extent. However, there is no need for it to become dangerous or overly aggressive. If your cat is being protective to the point where it is frightening to you or your family members, consult in your veterinarian immediately. There are several methods of professional treatment or even medication to help ease these types of behaviors.

There are several at-home remedies for coping with mildly territorial behavior, however. The first is to scent new furniture, pets, or visitors with your cat’s scent. You can use one of your cat’s toys to rub the “intruder” or object before they meet your cat, so they will view them as familiar and not as a threat. Spaying and neutering all of your cats also significantly decreases any aggressive territorial behavior, especially around mating season. If your feline becomes territorial when they see someone or something in their yard, try keeping blinds closed or blocking their view of windows for an easy fix. When you are bringing a second cat into your home, it is often common to see a spike in territorial behavior. Make sure to slowly introduce any new pets and feed them separately to avoid conflict.

At Spot Pet Insurance, we want you and your pet to live the happiest and healthiest lives possible together. We know it can be difficult if your cat is acting out – so we’re here to help!


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