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!
It's normal for a cat to be a little possessive of their favorite person, but sometimes possessive behavior becomes extreme and causes issues in a household. Possible triggers for excessive possessive behavior include living with multiple cats, guests visiting the home, and new human family members. Seeking the advice of an animal behaviorist can help discover what's causing your cat's possessive behavior so you can redirect your cat’s attention more positively.
It's normal for a cat to be a little possessive of their favorite person, but sometimes possessive behavior becomes extreme and causes issues in a household.
Possible triggers for excessive possessive behavior include living with multiple cats, guests visiting the home, and new human family members.
Seeking the advice of an animal behaviorist can help discover what's causing your cat's possessive behavior so you can redirect your cat’s attention more positively.
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.
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 might 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 might be the most intrinsically linked to those all-important resources we have mentioned.
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, possessive behavior tends to have three main causes.
1. Other Cats
If you are a pet parent in a multiple-cat household, you might 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 a neighborhood cat that can intrude on your cat’s “core territory” and make their way into your home.
2. Guests And Visitors
Even if all your friends and family are cat lovers and offer your cat lots of pets and cuddles, the arrival of someone new can be enough to elicit some possessive behavior in some cats. No negative experiences may have occurred between a guest and your cat, but that guest is dividing the attention of the cat’s “special person” and threatening their access to the person they value most.
3. Non-Feline Newcomers
Generally speaking, newcomers 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 too.
Sudden alterations to a cat’s day-to-day life, particularly those that affect the time you might spend interacting with your cat, can stress your cat into behaving possessively.
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 might feel threatened by the situation they are in. In this scenario, your cat might be too uncomfortable to exhibit their normal relaxed character.
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 might distance themselves from the whole situation and put up a barrier of aggression. This is only due to their discomfort with the proceedings.
Although most of us enjoy being kneaded and headbutted by our cats as a sign of affection, some cats might exhibit an extreme form of this behavior if they are feeling possessive of their owner. Sometimes they might meow insistently or deliberately get in your way in order to direct your attention onto themselves.
Possessiveness might 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.
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, always allowing your cat somewhere safe to retreat to if they feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed.
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. 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 might 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.
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.
When all else fails, seeking the advice of an animal behaviorist might help you discover what’s causing your cat’s possessive behavior so you can 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.