Cats can fight with each other for many reasons. By far the most popular source of disagreement is over territory. Cats are very protective of what they consider to be theirs, including terrain. The result will be constant squabbling, and physical battles between rival local cats.
Spaying and neutering are helpful. This will stop cats attempting to impress potential mates with displays of strength and dominance. Beyond this, always separate fighting cats quickly.
Fighting over territory comes naturally to felines. This doesn’t mean that we should encourage it, though. Learn why cats behave this way, and how to put a stop to it.
Why are Cats Territorial?
Cats like to mark territory as belonging to them. This stems from the ancestry of domesticated housecats, who lived in the wild. When wild cats found a source of food, they would guard it. Animal instinct is hard to break, and cats have retained this desire to protect their territory.
Cats also forge a strong bond to particular locations. While their short-term memory is not very good, a cat will never forget a place that it’s important to them. Cats memorize every place, and do whatever they can make sure none of these changes. If that means chasing off competitors, then they’ll do just that.
How to Minimize Territorial Aggression in Cats
If you want to reduce your cat’s territorial aggression, you’ll need to reduce their aggression. One of the simplest ways of doing this is to spay or neuter your cat.
Sexually mature felines have a lot of hormones. This will eventually transfer to aggression, with the territory being one of the things they’ll fight over. Males, in particular, will not want to share their terrain if they’re unfixed. Why would they allow rivals for female cat affections onto their turf?
In addition to spaying and neutering, calming techniques that can be used on cats include:
- Calming sprays and essential oils. Lavender is very impactful.
- Playing with your cat more. If your pet takes out their territorial aggression on toys, other cats will be safer.
- Socialization and behavioral classes. Some cats are aggressively territorial because they do not know any different. This is especially likely if your cat was formerly stray. They may need to be shown another way.
- Breaking up fights before they happen. You should never get in the way of warring cats. That could end badly for you. If you distract cats before they fight, however, they may stop squabbling over territory. Loud noises and squirt guns are impactful.
You should also have an aggressive cat checked out by a vet. This is especially important if the cat has suddenly started to behave uncharacteristically hostile. Aggression can be a symptom of a cat that’s in pain or sick.
How Do Cats Mark Their Territory?
As Cats International explains, felines display territorial behaviors in several ways. These include the following:
- Urinating and eliminating outside of their litter box
- Rubbing against items
Cats will always look to mark territory as their own if they can. Scratching leaves a visual reminder of a cat’s presence, while releasing scent through their paw pads.
Urinating and spraying leaves a powerful, recognizable aroma. Rubbing also makes a distinct mark. Cats rely on their sense of smell much more than their sight, so these aromas are essential.
What Happens if My Cat Enters Another Cat’s Territory?
This depends on the mentality of both felines. Marking becomes essential here. One cat may have left a message that essentially means, “keep out.” Cats do not only mark territory to warn others away, however. In some instances, they are leaving complex communications for their fellow felines.
A cat may be announcing that they hunt in the territory in the morning, for example. This means that another cat will understand that they can have free reign in the afternoon. Cats may also be prepared to share their territory, and announce whether prey is plentiful.
The latter instance is very rare, alas. Most cats operate an, “every pet for themselves” policy. They are not willing to share food, space, or the plump, juicy mice that wander around. This is why cats often end up fighting over territory. Neither feline is prepared to concede ground to the other, and a battle ensues.
Are Indoor Cats Less Territorial?
Just because a cat doesn’t spend time outside, they will not necessarily be less territorial. If you have more than one cat in your home, you may often find them fighting.
The cause of these disputes will be what the cats consider to be theirs. This could include food, beds, attention from their owner, a particular spot on the sofa. If a cat lays claim to something, they will not take kindly to another cat attempting to use it.
Observe your cats, and you will probably notice that they have different preferred locations. They may sleep together if it’s unusually cold, but otherwise, they will likely choose a different bed each. This will be because each cat has claimed the bed as their territory through scent.
Kneading blankets is a common way that cats claim a bed. Their paw pads release sweat, the smell of which announces the cat’s ownership.
How Can I Manage Territorial Aggression in My Indoor Cats?
If all of your cats feel that they have their own property and territory, they will likely peacefully coexist. That means that two cats will need two food bowls, beds and anything else that your cats use. Make these items identical. Cats are smart. If one realizes the other has something bigger and better, they will try to claim it.
The other key is to be consistent with each cat’s territory. Don’t wash one cat’s blanket and not the other; the imbalance of scents will cause confusion. You’ll also need to be sure to change litter boxes simultaneously, and feed at the same time. This sense of routine and everything in its time and place will settle your cats down.
My Cats Usually Get Along, Why Are They Fighting?
Territory can do strange things to cats. They can turn from friends to mortal enemies if one cat pushes their luck too far. Thankfully, your cats will likely forgive each other just as quickly.
If your cats are fighting over a particular item or piece of territory, separate them. Once they have cooled off, they will likely make friends again and forget anything happened. Territorial fighting is so instinctive that some cats do not think twice about it.
Why Do Cats Fight Outside?
Cats are more likely to fight outdoors than indoors. Cats sometimes declare very large areas to be their territory. This may be an entire street, on occasion. That means that, sooner or later, another cat will saunter past. After the usual posturing and refusing to stand down, a fight is inevitable.
If you don’t want your cats to fight outside, keep them indoors. On paper, it’s that simple. In practice, it may be a little more difficult. This is the only foolproof method to prevent territorial aggression, though. Some cats will not tolerate another feline on what they consider to be their patch.
Cats fighting outside is potentially dangerous though, no matter how commonplace. When not in plain view, it may take an owner longer to realize cats are fighting. This means that the felines could have a few moments of uninterrupted fighting. It may not sound like much, but cats can do a lot of damage in moments.
There is also enhanced risk of infection in open wounds if cats fight outside. Streets and backyards could be host to all kinds of different bacteria. This all adds weight to the theory that cats are safer indoors. If your cat does end up in a fight, check them carefully for any wounds. If they are bleeding in any way, clean them up and consider speaking to a vet.
Why Do I Always Hear Cats Fighting at Night?
As PetMD confirms, cats are nocturnal by nature. As cats are more active at night, they are likely to patrol after dark. Imagine all of the cats in your neighborhood having the same idea. You could end up with a dozen or more felines in the same street. That’s a recipe for disaster, and certain to result in the animals winding each other up.
Even if your cat is not part of the fight, they’ll soon know about it. Cats are not quiet when they fight. The sounds of crying, howling and meowing may wake you up. Now imagine how your cat feels? They have hearing considerably better than humans. They’ll hear a bunch of felines speaking their language, and will likely want to get involved. After all, they cannot defend their territory if they’re not in the thick of the action.
If you want your cat to stay home after dark, get them on a human schedule. Cats love routine, and they’re eminently trainable. Spend the day playing with your cat, helping them get their aggressive and predatory instincts out. Feed them a substantial meal just before bed. After a while, your cat will not even notice that the door is locked.
Are Some Cats More Likely to Fight Over Territory Than Others?
Some breeds of cat are also more naturally territorial and aggressive than others. Sphinx and Siamese cats, for example, tend to bond very heavily with one or two humans. This means that anybody or anything else is considered to be competition.
Male cats will generally be more aggressive than females, especially if they have not been neutered. If male cats feel that rivals are invading their territory, they’ll try to scare them off. If neither cat is prepared to back down, a fight is inevitable. This is especially likely if both cats are male.
Female cats are not necessarily any less territorial than males. Female cats are often more dominant than their male counterparts. However, they will typically protect a smaller, more concentrated area of territory. While intact males may consider an entire street their domain, females may concentrate on one corner.
My Cat is Being Bullied by a Neighbors Cat
Cats bullying other animals in their neighborhood is very common. Like a western gunslinger, some cats feel that territory is not big enough to share.
If you notice that one particular cat seems to attack your own, speak to its owner.
Don’t be aggressive with your neighbor. The cat is only behaving in line with its own nature. However, you will likely want to find a mutually beneficial solution. In an ideal world, that would be one or both felines becoming indoor cats. Of course, if the aggressor is unfixed, that could also explain their attitude!
In reality, you may need to compromise. As, your neighbor if they would consider placing a belled collar on their cat. This will at least warn your pet they are coming. If the other cat can’t get close to your pet, they’ll grow bored. This will result in them finding a new target.
My Cat is Timid, Will They Be Left Alone?
Sadly, a timid cat will not be left out of any battles for territory. Felines are Darwinian by their nature, and have little patience for weakness. This is why they will rarely let on if they are injured or sick. A timid cat that avoids confrontation may as well have ‘kick me’ shaved into their fur.
If your cat is nervous by nature, they will most likely remain indoors by choice. This is a good thing, as it will minimize the risk of bullying from other felines. It still pays to build up your cat’s confidence, though. Give your cat plenty of space, but gently play with them more and more each day. This will help the animal start to trust you. As a result, they’ll become increasingly self-assured.
Naturally, this can be something of a balancing act. Nobody wants their cat to be afraid of their own shadow. On the other hand, if your cat gets too confident they may join the territorial masses. A pet that’s comfortable, but has no desire to pick fights, is the perfect compromise.
How to Keep Other Cats Away from My Cat
If you want to protect your cat from territorial fights, there are options:
- Keep your cat indoors. An indoor cat, especially if they’re a solo pet, will have the run of the house. Keeping your cat home after dark is particularly advisable if they run into trouble with neighborhood cats.
- Use a cat-repelling aroma close to your home. Lemon peel will usually do the trick. This may upset your pet too. It’s best to get them used to the scent before you start. Exposure therapy can be hugely impactful for cats.
- Invest in a motion-sensor sprinkler. This way, if another cat approaches your territory, they will automatically be chased off. Cats loathe being soaked to the bone. No territory is worth this sensation for the average feline.
- Constantly distract other cats when they approach your pet. Loud noises or squirt guns are fine here. This will eventually create a Pavlovian response in another cat. They will learn that approaching your property results in an unpleasant experience.
- Erect a cat-proof fence around your property. This will be an issue if your pet ventures outside. If your cat stays close, however, a fence offers them the best of both worlds. They can play outside without encountering aggressive rivals.
Some of these techniques will be more desirable than others. Workaround what is best for you, and your cat. Remember, you don’t want your cat to become too nervous around other cats. That’s counter-productive, and could cause problems if you wish to introduce another pet to your family. If your cat can avoid getting into territorial disputes, however, you’ll all be happier.
Cats fighting over territory is a tricky thing. Even the most docile pet is capable of becoming a fighting machine over the terrain. It comes as naturally to felines as hunting and sleeping.
If you don’t plan to breed your cat, there’s nothing to gain by leaving them unfixed. This will make them increasingly capable of aggression. Once you have done so, you should find your cat’s territorial tendencies much more manageable. Beyond this, prevent your cat from fighting and scrapping with neighborhood cats wherever possible. The more time cats spend coexisting without fighting, the more likely they are to become friendly.