Tuesday 17 April 2012

Cats Are Not Territorial Animals

The title of this post is a verbatim transcript from an excellent book on The Welfare of Cats edited by Irene Rochlitz. The author who makes this statement in the section of the book on olfactory communication, S.L.Crowell-Davis, does not differentiate between wild, feral or domestic cats although the book is mainly about the domestic cat. I think you will find the statement controversial especially amongst the wild cat experts.

Crowell-Davies goes on to say that urine spraying as a form of olfactory communication is not to mark territory - i.e. to make the statement that the cat 'owns' this plot of land and to stay out. The author says that spraying urine horizontally onto objects in small quantities has multiple meanings that depend on the circumstances at the time and on what is in the urine. The implication is that a cat can control what scent the urine has at any given time.

The purpose of spraying urine is to leave a message ("identifying information") about:
  • reproductive status
  • which cat was where at any given time. I presume this is designed to ensure that cats don't bump into each other which might result in a fight.
  • the emotional state of the cat - e.g. aroused.
The author says that cats sometimes leave feces unburied on the "periphery of the home range" and in "core areas". To me this signifies a form or territorial marking, but apparently not.

We hear of inappropriate elimination of domestic cats. One aspect of reducing the occurrence of inappropriate elimination is to move the litter box to a different area, one that the cat might find more acceptable (a quieter place for example). Research by Sung in 2001 indicated that there was no connection between the location of the litter box and elimination behaviour problems. This is another interesting piece of information that appears to contradict mainstream advice.

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