Feline Territories – Cat Territorial Behaviour

territorial behaviour in cats

Cats are territorial animals, and each one has its own clearly defined territory. This applies whether the cat is confined indoors – in which case its territory may be a favourite chair, say – or whether it goes outside, in which case its territory will be the region over which it normally roams. How big or small this is will depend on the cat’s place in the local hierarchy and on whether it is a torn, neutered or unneutered, or a female.

territorial behaviour in catsWhen a cat lives in a town, its territory will – understandably – be centred on its owner’s house and garden. Rooftops (and garden walls) offer a good vantage point for watching over the area.

Q. Do cats have neutral areas that are not part of their territory?

Yes, they have meeting grounds where they often gather in peaceful groups, which seems to be part of their social life.

Q. How do cats organise their territories if several cats live in the same household?

Cats usually have indoor territorial rights over particular parts of the house which slowly merge until they jointly `own’ the whole territory between them, and will mutually defend it against feline outsiders.

Q. We’ve just moved house: can I help my cat establish her claim on her new territory?

This is something the cat will have to sort out for herself, but you can help by discouraging other cats from coming into the garden and by breaking up any fights.

Cats have a well-developed sense of territory from a very early age. Each cat has its own clearly defined territory, no matter how lowly its rank in the local pecking order. This applies whether a cat is an indoor cat, confined to an apartment or whether it goes outside: an indoor cat will establish a particular part of the home (a corner of a room or a piece of furniture) while an outdoor cat makes the region over which it habitually roams its own.


How big or small a cat’s patch is will depend on its place in the local hierarchy, which is generally governed by its gender. Mature males usually have a larger range than females, while unneutered toms have the largest range of all.

Cats will fight hard to defend their territories, and those with a small territory may actually fight harder than those with a very large territory, which might otherwise become too much like a full-time job and they would never get the chance to have any sleep.


Cats often perch on raised areas such as fences, gateposts, windowsills, the roofs of sheds or outhouses or even on top of a dustbin. These serve as vantage points from where they can keep a watchful eye on their territory, ready to make it clear to other cats that might encroach on their area just who is the boss.

  • A queen will defend her territory more fiercely than any cat when she has kittens.
  • Cats scent mark their territory by spraying, or by rubbing against trees and fences.
  • Cats have a formal network of paths linking all the accessible parts of a neighbourhood, both those which are part of the territory of a particular cat and `communal’ areas.