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How Territorial Is Your Cat?

Territorial Cats

Cats are territorial by nature.

Like their bigger counterparts in the wild, cats mark their turf in some unusual ways.

Sometimes the way our cats strut their stuff is harmless and even entertaining.

Other times, though, it can cause problems for you, other pets, or any kids in the house.

Here’s what you need to know about your cat’s odd behavior and how to help her feel more secure in her territory.

Leaving Presents

Let’s get the least pleasant scenarios out of the way first, shall we?

One of the most common ways cats mark their territory is by spraying urine.

We know: no fun.

While female cats and neutered male cats can spray urine, it’s uncommon. Unneutered male cats are the most likely to spray and do so to let other cats know that they’re in the market for a partner.

If you have a male cat who is making things messy around the house, talk to your veterinarian about neutering. If letting your tomcat have kittens isn’t on your radar, neutering can put a stop to spraying and several other unwanted, sometimes aggressive behaviors.

Now, if your male cat is already neutered or if your female cat is the one doing the spraying, things get a bit more tricky. This is often a sign of territorial insecurity or stress and could be caused by a number of things like:

  • You’ve added a new cat, dog, baby, or other creature to your home.
  • There are feral cats in your neighborhood threatening your cat’s turf.
  • Your home doesn’t smell the same anymore or you’ve recently moved.
  • Your cat’s litter box isn’t as clean as she prefers and she’s refusing to use it.
  • Another cat is dominating the litter box and she has no place to feel safe to go.
  • Your cat is ill and being surrounded by her own scent makes her feel more comfortable

Apart from urine, cats also use feces to mark their turf.

A customer recently told us how her cat leaves a "territorial signpost dropping outside her litter box" when he notices anyone – human and cat alike – has come near his box. This not-so-cute behavior is called middening and is a way for cats to mark the boundaries of their territory.

The Fix

Understanding your cat and her particular stressors can go a long way toward eliminating these unpleasant occurrences.

Start by taking your cat to the vet to make sure everything is on the up-and-up health-wise.

If your cat has received a clean bill of health, it’s time to try other methods. If you have other cats in the home, make sure you have at least one litter box per cat, plus one. For example, if you have three cats, you should have four litter boxes. While that may seem like a lot, it’ll make a world of difference to make your kitties feel safe, comfortable, and free to stop leaving puddles around your home.

If you’ve recently moved, added a new member to the family member (either of the two- or four-legged variety), or introduced any other stressors to your cat’s environment, make sure she has a safe place to go when she needs to get away from it all. Letting her claim the space under the bed or having a dog-and-child-free room can alleviate your cat’s anxiety and put an end to the spraying.

Lastly, make sure any past “presents” have been cleaned up thoroughly. Using a UV light can help you identify any residual scent your cat may be picking up on that is triggering her to reapply.

Head Rubs

Don’t worry: This territorial behavior is far more adorable than the previous.

Have you ever seen your cat rubbing her head on the corners of walls, on new boxes that arrive in the mail, or against your shins?

She’s not just showing her love for all the wonderful things around her. Actually, she’s marking her territory.

Cats have scent glands on their foreheads, in front of their ears, on their cheeks, and on their chins. So don’t be alarmed if it looks like Fluffy is infatuated with the leg of the sofa. She’s just claiming it as part of her home.

The Fix

There isn’t really a fix for this cat behavior – and luckily you don’t really need one.

The oils that cats secrete by rubbing their cute little faces on everything are harmless, invisible, and can only be smelled by animals with noses far stronger than ours.

Scratching

The dreaded s-word: scratching. This is one of the more common and, unfortunately, harmful territorial cat behaviors.

While your cat is unlikely to scratch you or anyone else for the sake of marking her territory, she will go after walls, door jams, baseboards, and other areas near the entrances of your home.

Scratching is a way for your cat to leave both visual and scent cues that this is her property and no other cat should try to set up shop nearby.

Cats have scent glands in their paws, as well as all over their little heads. Scratching achieves two of your cat’s most important goals: marking her territory and maintaining a perfect manicure.

But don’t be fooled – even cats who have been declawed can mark their territory this way in order to activate those glands in the paws.

The Fix

If your cat is scratching up the outside exits of your home – such as to the front or backyards – she’s likely picking up on the scent of outside cats and wants to make things clear that other felines are not welcome. Try your best to keep those doors closed so your cat is distanced from the outside smells. Leave your shoes outside or put them in a closet where your cat can’t sniff any scents they may track in.

On the other hand, if your cat is scratching up doorways that don’t lead outside, she may be having a beef with another animal in your house. Determine which side of the barrier – either inside or outside the room – your cat prefers and try to keep the other pets out of that space.

Here are more tips and tricks for keeping your cat from scratching up your decor.

Cat body language can tell you quite a bit. If your cat is showing other signs of territorial behavior, tell us about it in the comments below and we’ll help you find a solution.

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