by Nomi Berger
Does the sound of hissing and the sight of swatting occur all too frequently in YOUR home? If so, you’re not alone. More multi-cat households than you can shake a paw at experience this phenomenon as well. The term for such unwelcome behavior is resource guarding, and, not surprisingly, much of it is grounded in kitty cat insecurity.
Cats who once spent an extended period of time either on the streets or in shelters before being rescued — particularly those deprived of food in the past — are most likely to resource guard in their adoptive homes. Why? Because, in spite of all of the food available to them, they still perceive that there’s little or none.
Sometimes a resident cat will resource guard when a new cat enters her established household. Or vice-versa. A new cat may exhibit the same tendency if she’s either been abandoned or deprived of adequate food and water in the past. Others may resource guard when they feel stressed by such changes in their homes as new people entering the picture (roommates or spouses) or by familiar people exiting the picture (children leaving for college or divorces).
What then, is included in the list of “items” stressed kitties guard so fiercely? Food and water bowls, toys, games and cat tunnels, litter boxes, cat scratchers and scratching posts, cat trees and napping spots, and purr-ticularly people. And the ways they display their displeasure include hissing to warn the other cat(s) to stay away, swatting at the other cat(s) and sometimes their guardians to stay away, literally blocking the other cat or cats’ access to anything they consider theirs, scratching various items as a way of “claiming” them, and spraying or urinating on some items and even people.
Should you notice your kitty guarding her resources from a new feline addition to “her” family, stop it early to both prevent her behaviour from escalating and to ensure there’s harmony between all parties in your household. Consider, then, these suggestions. Put down a food bowl for each cat before mealtimes. Remove the lids from all of the litter boxes to prevent one cat from trapping the other inside them. Set up several litter box areas to give the bullied cat other options if your cat is guarding one area. Spend equal quality one-on-one time with each cat and engage them in stimulating playtime activities together. Supply them with enough toys, games and scratching posts, cat trees, cubbyholes and cat beds so that each cat can lay claim to her own. Experiment with several natural flower essences known to reduce stress and encourage calm. Shower your cats with effusive praise and reward them with high value treats whenever they’re together without either bullying or guarding. And, as a last resort, discuss the matter with your vet to see if your cats’ anxieties can be reduced by medication.