Humans are territorial.
We strive for the perfect little home, with the perfect garden or balcony, neatly separated from others by a white picket fence, while still closeby.
Our very own nook in the world.
Many animals share that need.
Very much so.
However, they don’t necessarily agree with us on the size, shape and general boundary of that little nook. In that respect, we may just have more pets than we realise, really.
Which means you may have some unexpected visitors barging into your space – like your garden, balcony, and even your inner sanctum if they know how to work a pet door. Now, safe from the latter, we tend to not care, as long as they don’t wreck things, right?
Well…your kitty just might, though.
Your cat may not agree that the house is the boundary of your shared territory. And that garden or terrace of yours? It can become a very hotly disputed piece of land, causing your kitty to feel like they’re under attack.
And this, in turn, may cause some seriously undesirable behaviour in an attempt to ‘defend the fortress’. Such as spraying, eliminating, hiding and even aggression – making it effectively your problem, as well.
In fact, we often aren’t even aware of the problem until our kitty starts eliminating outside the litter box. Suddenly they prefer to use their liquids to literally ‘build a moat’ around their territory, targeting windows and doors where the offending parties can be spotted from. They feel officially under attack and the enemy is right outside their doorstep.
So, what can we do to assuage their – often justified – territorial insecurity?
1. Removing The Offending Party From Your Property
First off, removing the trigger if possible is certainly advisable.
That means removing any reasons for other animals to be attracted to your garden. Think of things like spaying or neutering your kitty – or the boys will leave their calling card on your doors and windows. For that matter, use a black light to check for calling cards! But, also remove places that can be used as a litter box, such as an empty flower bed. Lastly, remove any food stashes that may attract things like raccoons, possums and stray animals.
Then, we fortify the perimeter.
Close up any gaps in fences, if you have any.
If you have an outdoor cat, also consider building them a ‘catio’ high up and outside. That way, they can climb up high on perches to oversee their territory from a safe spot and guard it.
2. Blocking Off The Offending Party
So..what if you cannot remove the offending party because they’re walking on a piece of property that just isn’t your?
Meanwhile, your kitty still considers part of their territory – and can see them through the window.
Try to block off that window. Now, this may be temporary but in some cases, the block needs to go up permanently. This will depend on your kitty, and the situation. For now, though, help them calm down by making the trigger ‘go away’ by blocking off their line of sight.
Now, if your kitty is eliminating outside the box and hiding, you may want to break out the wand toy to build their confidence in the room where they feel so insecure. Let them catch the toy often to change the context of the room to that of a hunting zone where they’re the confident predator.
If your kitty is aggressively charging the windows (and maybe even attacking you), you could also try to use the toy as a distraction technique to keep them from fixating on the window.
After a few days – or rather, once they’ve calmed down a bit, you try the next exercise:
3. Building Positive Associations
Say the offending party is a dog walking by on the street.
There is no way you can keep dog owners from walking their dog there, but it may still be upsetting to your kitty.
So, it is time to change the context. See if you can ask a friend who has a dog to help you with this one, so you can control the exercise. Also, try to do this when nobody usually walks their dog.
Alternatively, you could do it at the time that everyone walks their dog and play off of the opportunity they provide.
Now, make sure you have your cat’s favourite treat ready. Next, remove the object blocking off the window and get ready. Either cue your friend, or wait for someone to walk by with a dog. Do not let your kitty escalate – try and keep their focus on you and the treat.
You see, it is kind of hard to both enjoy food and stay stressed and defensive at the same time. So we’re giving our kitty a choice. And, in doing so, reprogramming their opinion of the offending party. Their presence equals delicious treats that they only get when the other animal is present.
Now, if that isn’t a reason to reconsider your animosity, what is?
Build up the time of exposure as you progress with the exercise. Make sure they don’t get too overstimulated and do not let things escalate. Over time, maybe…just maybe you could remove the object blocking the window completely.
Of course, this exercise depends on the predictability of the offending animal’s presence and your level of patience and devotion.
Dealing With The Moat
Throughout all of this, do not forget to blacklight both inside and outside the house and use an enzyme cleanser to remove all scent marking that has been going on.
Also, put more litter boxes out – especially on the spots that have been chosen to be marked near the windows and doors. It’ll allow them to use the litter boxes to build their moat.
Rest assured, this is a temporary measure you can remove once you are incident free for over a week.
Meanwhile, this type of situation has a way of making one feel hopeless, so please, do not hesitate to call in back-up in the form of a professional cat behaviourist. A guiding hand can do wonders and reduce the amount of frustration and time spent on training significantly, after all.
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