Cat owners quickly get accustomed to saying “where’s the
cat?�? throughout the day. It’s no surprise to cat lovers when their feline
friend doesn’t emerge from its hiding space for hours on end. This is because
it needs personal space.
Your cat might not always act like it cares about private
space—maybe it likes to spend every night sleeping on your chest or every
afternoon walking across your laptop, books and notes. However, cats can also
be very particular about when and how they interact with people and other pets
and are very protective of their person space.
Cats who are not afforded private spaces to hide, nap or
decompress may end up lashing out through inappropriate behavior, anxiety and
aggression. Here’s what you should know about cats and personal space.
Allowing cats to choose their space
You need to create private spaces for your cat (or cats)
that allow them to get away from the hustle and bustle of your home. Each cat
you own should have a designated space, although they may switch and use each
other’s hiding spaces from time to time.
Often, cats will choose their own spaces before you have a
chance to create one for them. This might be the top of the refrigerator, an
empty corner of a shelf, the back of a linen closet or the furthest section
underneath your bed.
Your cat’s personal space is likely to be one of two types
of places: one that is very high up or one that is small and enclosed.
Cats tend to like these types of spaces because of their
evolutionary instincts. In the wild, cats need to find spaces where they will
be safe from predators, and they love to keep a close eye on everything that’s
going on around them so they can stay safe.
Vertical spaces provide your cat a bird’s-eye view of your
home where it is virtually untouchable. Up high, your cat can watch what’s
going on down below while not worrying about being snuck up on or attacked. Cat
trees and cat shelves are good options if you don’t have a lot of cat-friendly
vertical spaces in your home.
Tight, small, enclosed spaces provide similar protection.
Things like baskets and boxes let your cat back up and feel safe while
observing the outside through the one open side. They can remain undetectable
and out-of-sight while carefully monitoring the room.
Creating a private space and respecting it
If your cat hasn’t chosen a place to hide, you can easily
create one for it. Choose a section of a quiet room (like a bedroom) to turn
into your cat’s own private retreat. You can place your cat’s toys, food and
water dish, cat tree, scratching post, bed and more in this space. By providing
comfort items in this area and leaving it alone for most of the day, your cat
will know it is safe and will feel comfortable going there to lounge when it
feels overwhelmed, scared or tired.
When your cat is in its private space, don’t interrupt it
unless it is causing harm to itself or your property. Chances are, there’s a
reason your cat decided to hide itself away at that moment—it wants to be left
This is especially important when you have visitors in your
home. Your cat must be able to get comfortable with your guests on its own
terms, which may include hiding out until it feels safe to come and sniff out
strangers. If you force it to interact with people by removing it from its safe
space, you risk increasing its stress
and anxiety, which may develop into more serious, long-term problems.
Other areas for personal space
Another private space your cat requires is its litter box.
One common mistake cat owners make is placing the litter box in a busy,
frequently-trafficked part of the home. But would you want to be disturbed
while you’re trying to use the bathroom? Our cats feel the same way. The litter
box should always be placed in a quiet, separate location of the home where
your cat can go in peace.
If you have more than one cat, you should also have more
than one litter box. Cats can become very territorial over their litter boxes,
as well as particular about where they are placed. Having more than one gives
your cat options and can mitigate accidents.
Finally, make sure your cats have separate food and water
bowls. You wouldn’t want to be forced to share a bowl with someone you live
with, and neither do your cats. Separate bowls, sometimes even in separate
rooms of the home, can make mealtimes more peaceful.