Are Cats Territorial?
It’s no secret that cats definitely fall into the “loner” side of the spectrum, when it comes to socialization. While they may enjoy being around us – especially when there is the promise of food – some cats simply don’t enjoy being around other felines. Unfortunately, this can often be displayed with signs of aggression and can be disconcerting for both yourself and your neighbors, especially if they have cats, too.
In this article, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know territorial aggression in cats and how to manage any issues you may have with your territorial cat. Not only this, but we’ll let you know the signs and symptoms to look out for, so you can spot and stop the problem, before it gets worse.
Are Cats Territorial?
If your cat is typically a bit of lap cat and generally very docile, you might be surprised to learn that they can also be extremely territorial. Even the most relaxed cat can completely change their demeanor when they believe their territory is threatened, and this can come as a shock to some owners.
This doesn’t mean you need to be concerned, however, as being territorial is simply something that is engrained in their basic instinct. Territorial aggression in cats rarely leads to direct confrontation, and often simply means you’ll head a lot of angry rants between cats, until the unwelcome visitor leaves the area.
Why Are Cats Territorial?
In the wild, cats will have a specific area in which they will hunt, defecate and mate. And while, for some, this area can be pretty wide-ranging, others may have a few hundred meters at best. Regardless of the size, however, each cat protects this area with their life – as any encroaching competitors can lead to a drastic reduction in food sources and an increased threat to their life.
In order for cats to know which area belongs to whom, they will often use a series of different behaviors, to help indicate their territory to others, which we discuss in more detail, below. In the meantime, you’ll often find that your cat will frequently patrol the area, in order to keep up with maintaining their borders.
It’s important to note that signs of territorialism in cats are much more frequent if your cat has not been spayed or neutered. The reason for this is that there is a higher level of risk associated with fighting other cats due to potential partners being increased. Female cats in heat can struggle to ward off unwanted advances by tom cats, and male cats will often fight with each other in order to mate with the female. Thus, keeping a very strict boundary can help reduce the risk of fights between other cats and your own.
Are Cats Territorial of Their Owners?
While most cats are fairly adaptable and will happily warm up to new people, other cats can definitely become territorial over their owners. This can be displayed in a fairly wide range of symptoms but will usually only begin to show when a new character arrives on the scene.
While this is something you can easily work around with other adults, it can definitely become a challenge when introducing a baby to the family, for example. Similarly, your cat may become more territorial and aggressive with new pets, too.
Don’t forget, that cats love their routine, and any changes to this can also induce territorial aggression in cats. For this reason, it can be worth making slow and steady changes, where possible, to help alleviate the stress caused by change and reduce the risk of aggression shown by your pet.
Do Cats Mark Territory?
Absolutely. Cats mark their territory to allow other cats to know when an area is “taken” and there are a couple of ways in which they do this. Some ways of marking their territory can be fairly mild, such as simply rubbing their chin against your leg, or a piece of furniture. By doing this, the scent glands located in the cheek area can leave your cats’ scent behind, essentially marking you or that area as theirs to other cats.
They can also urinate in the area around the home – both outdoors and inside the house, which can become quite a problem with intact cats. Again, this is related to leaving behind a specific scent and warning other cats away. They may also claw at furniture, to leave behind scent created by the scent glands in their paws, or to leave a visual mark to ward off competitors.
All of the above is much more common and wide-ranging with intact cats, as their desire to procreate is stronger, leading to a much more possessive nature. However, it is not uncommon for spayed or neutered cats to also be territorial.
It is not uncommon for some cats to share territory, although this is rare for cats from different households. Depending on how well the two cats have been socialized from their first meeting, a cat can either become violent, in response to their territory being invaded, or may simply change their borders.
In the wild, of course, it is extremely unlikely for cats to ever share territory, as they will likely fight for both food and general resources, including mates for procreation. However, domesticated cats and cats who have been spayed or neutered will likely be much more docile toward each other, especially if both are happy and well-fed.
Better still, kittens that come from the same litter are the least likely to become aggressive toward each other, as they will see themselves as part of the same clan. In these cases, you may even find cats swapping sleeping areas and working in shifts to man their territory.
When Should I be Concerned About Territorial Aggression in Cats?
For the most part, territorial aggression can be a rare phenomenon as most cats know the signs and stick to their own areas. However, a new cat in the neighborhood can often throw a spanner in the works and shift the balance put in place by the current cats. The main cause for territorial aggression in cats is when a new human or pet enters your household, and you notice a drastic change in behavior from your cat.
If your cat frequently attacks, bites, scratches, stands their hair on end and is hissing at you or a family member a lot, these can be signs of a very unhappy cat. Try to give these cats their own, designated space and – if possible – adjust your routine to better suit the new household members in advance, to cause less distress for your furry family members.