It is not just understandable for animals and people to be protective and possessive of those things that are important to them, it is actually very good sense!
Protecting important resources helps to safeguard an individual’s well-being, happiness, and even survival. When we talk about the most important resources in the eyes of a cat, we tend to think of:
- Food and water
- Shelter: places to rest and hide
- Access to a litter box/toileting area
Chances are that as your cat’s human family member, you are central to providing most of these things for your cat. This means it is sensible and quite normal for your cat to want to keep you close and be a little bit possessive about you, and we all know that cats are eminently sensible creatures!
However, sometimes this possessive behavior can be extreme and cause issues within your household.
Also Read: How Much Does It Cost To Own A Cat In 2022
Why Do Cats Get Possessive Of One Particular Person?
Although there is often space in our cats’ hearts to love and be affectionate with several people, it is common for them to have a single special person.
This person may be the one they get to spend the most quality time with or the person they bonded most with during an early life stage. Consequently, this person may be the most intrinsically linked to those all-important resources we have mentioned.
Cat Behavior: What Causes A Cat To Become Possessive Of Its Owners?
There can be a whole host of possible triggers for excessive possessive behavior. Typically, however, there tend to be three main causes:
If you are a pet parent in a multiple-cat household, you may feel like the object of some seemingly jealous cat behavior. This is quite a common scenario, regardless of whether those cats have grown up together or not. Cats’ personalities are all very different, and it is not a given that they will all get along harmoniously.
Another behavioral trigger can be cats from outside the household, whether that is a new cat that you are introducing, or – worst case scenario – a neighborhood cat that can intrude on your cat’s “core territory” and make their way into your home.
Also Read: How to Introduce New Cats to a Home
Guests And Visitors
Even if all your friends and family are cat lovers and offer your cat lots of pets and cuddles, to some cats the arrival of someone new can be enough to elicit some possessive behavior. Whilst there may have been no negative experiences between a guest towards your cat, that guest is dividing the attention of their “special person” and threatening your cat’s access to the person they value most.
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Generally speaking, these tend to take the form of a new pet such as a puppy, or new baby. Both can cause an abrupt change to an owner’s routine and as a result to their cat as well.
Sudden alterations to a cat’s day-to-day life, particularly those which affect the time you may spend interacting with your cat, can stress your cat into behaving possessively.
Also Read: Do Cats Get Jealous Of Babies?
Signs A Cat Is Being Possessive Of Their Owners
These can vary quite widely from cat to cat. Basically, any noticeable divergence from your cat’s normal, relaxed cat behavior when another person or pet is around could be a sign of possessive behavior.
Consider how your cat is when you are one on one with them in an area in which they feel relaxed. A change to this, particularly if it is severe or sudden, should be a warning sign to set you thinking about what might be impacting your cat’s happiness. Changes and signs you might see include:
Withdrawn, Uninterested Body Language
If your cat becomes unwilling to interact with you as normal or fails to play with a toy or accept a treat that they would usually love, they may feel threatened by the situation they are in. In this scenario, your cat may be too uncomfortable to exhibit their normal relaxed character.
Also Read: How To Tell If A Cat Is Angry
Sometimes this can manifest as space-guarding, where your cat is sitting on or next to you and lashes out at whoever comes into your personal space. Alternatively, your cat may distance themselves from the whole situation and put up a barrier of aggression. This is only due to their discomfort with the proceedings.
Also Read: The 10 Things That Cats Hate Most
Although most of us enjoy being kneaded and head-butted by our cats as a sign of affection, some cats may exhibit an extreme form of this behavior if they are feeling possessive of their owner. Sometimes they may meow insistently or deliberately get in your way in order to direct your attention onto themselves.
Also Read: Why Isn’t My Cat Affectionate?
Possessiveness may be displayed in the form of unwanted cat behaviors such as scratching at furniture or urinating or pooping in inappropriate places, especially if these are things that your cat doesn’t normally do.
Although it might seem as though your cat is acting out, it is important to remember that these behavioral problems are born of stress and not “bad” behavior. Cats do not have the ability to rationalize and act in retaliation, and should therefore never be punished if these problems occur.
What Can I Do To Help A Possessive Cat?
Fortunately, there’s lots that you can do to help!
Whilst none of us like to see our cat unhappy or unsettled, a little time and effort can go a long way to improve their well-being. Some top tips include:
Good Early Socialization
As with most things behavioral, starting good habits early on is always preferable to trying to correct behavioral problems further down the track. Any new cat or new kitten should be introduced gradually to a variety of different experiences in a controlled and positive manner.
Rescue cats or those who had limited socialization when they were young can find it more stressful to adapt to new encounters later on.
Also Read: 10 Signs Your Cat Wants Another Cat
Gradual Introduction Of New Family Members
Whether the new family member is a puppy, a new baby, or a new cat, a gradual introduction will help ward off any jealous behavior. Start by introducing an item that smells of your new baby/puppy/cat to your cat’s environment.
From there, you can start to introduce short periods where your cat can see and smell the newcomer, but from a safe distance and ideally in a segregated space. Attaching a treat or a reward to each interaction can help to build up a positive association in your cat’s mind.
Over time, you can increase the duration of each interaction, whilst always allowing your cat somewhere safe to retreat to if they feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed.
Also Read: Do Cats Get Jealous of Dogs?
Keep Routines Stable
In times of change, routines tend to get up-ended, especially if the change is a new baby in your family!
However, if you can, try to stick to your cat’s existing routines as it will help to reassure them. Try and plan for your cat’s meal times and playtime to remain as constant as possible and keep their litter box in the same place, and remember in times of challenge petting your cat is a known stress-reliever!
If, for example, you know that something such as feeding time is going to have to change, try to do this slowly over a period of time as opposed to altering it suddenly on the day that baby comes home.
Break Negative Cycles
Sometimes it is necessary to stop negative behavior cycles before we can move forward with more positive behaviors. For example, two cat housemates who are fighting may need to be given separate living spaces for a while.
This can enable their owner to greet them and provide lots of love and cuddles separately. Once they have had their owner bond affirmed, short periods where both cats come together with their owner can be introduced in a controlled manner with lots of positive reinforcement.
Also Read: 10 Signs Your Cat Really Does Trust You
Encourage Alternative Behaviors
As previously mentioned, unwanted possessive behaviors come from a place of emotional uncertainty and should never be punished or reprimanded. However, it can be useful to give your cat something else to focus on that can be positively reinforced.
One example of this is the ‘touch’ game, where the cat is taught that going near to or touching an object leads to a reward. In times of stress or conflict, the cat then has a positive activity they can focus on. Seeking the advice of an animal behaviorist may help you redirect your cat’s attention more positively.
Also Read: 5 Reasons Puzzle Feeders Are Good For Cats
Frequently Asked Questions
Do cats get protective of their owners?
Yes, some cats can get very protective of their owners. This can happen when new people or animals come close and make the cat feel uncomfortable. Protective cats can show a range of behaviors including becoming aggressive or unusually needy.
Why is my cat being possessive about me?
You are one of the most important features in your cat’s life. They rely on you for food, comfort, love, and affection. It is only natural that your cat wants to protect these resources and be possessive about you.
Are cats territorial over their owners?
A cat’s home or “core territory” is very important to them. Their owners are a major part of their home, so yes, cats are naturally territorial over their owners.