Personal Space of the Cat

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I have noticed that cats in groups are fairly evenly spaced compared to people. This is not hugely significant but interesting. It struck me that cats standing around in sanctuaries often keep a bit of space between themselves. You would never find that with people unless they were told to.

For me, the first reason is because the cat does not engage in conversation with a fellow cat nearby. Adult cats don’t meow at each cat. A cat doesn’t feel uncomfortable when near another cat while doing nothing. Aslo cats in groups still like to retain some personal space because they still have some territorial urges and are, at heart, solitary animals (some experts believe the cat is no longer territorial). Whereas the human is neither solitary nor territorial (well, you might think they are sometimes).

The domestic cat has become sociable because circumstances have forced that upon the cat – living in multi-cat homes for example – but the human needs to be sociable. A lot of the bunched spacing between people in groups is because they are talking to each other, forming sub-groups within the overall group. This doesn’t happen with cats. Although cats do groom each other and lie next to each other on occasion.

The cat’s desire for personal space comes through in various ways in the home. It depends on the cat, of course, but the majority of cats are often reluctant to be cuddled, crowded or held for too long. They seem to tolerate these things rather than enjoy it. They like their space. A cat likes our company but in a manner that suits them. This is not to say that cats don’t get close to us sometimes (e.g. on the lap). There is just a brake on it, which might be why some people say the cat is aloof. In this instance it is a cat retaining a tiny vestige of his territorial character.

Photo credits from the top going south! VG (Valley Girl – valleygirl_tka), Barbara Dodukeddiehosa, Sai89AJ, Toshihiro Oimatsu, MAClarke21Herry Lawford.

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Personal Space of the Cat — 16 Comments

  1. Im not real sure about this. I’ve experienced pretty much of a mix. Some will claim their own space, especially to nap, while others look like a great big pile. And, sometimes, they change up. The solitary ones will be part of a pile and the ones formerly in the pile will go solo.
    It makes me think, that like us, it’s just what they’re in the mood for.

    • I get your point, it is just that I have seen this even distribution before amongst a large number of cats and it unlike the sort of distribution one sees with people.

    • Dee – I agree – I see alot of cats who sleep and spend time very much together – they are friends obviously.

      I think Michael’s theory works better for cats who don’t know eachother as well as indoor best friend cats.

  2. A very candid photo of a cat from our building compound.This cat loves sitting on my motorcycle despite a few other motorcycles also parked alongside.Does a cat recognize people who like them ? In fact when i petted this cat it behaved as if it knew me very well, akin to my pet house-cats.This cat is a total stray cat that lives in our building compound, its normal territory.Seems cats love living solitary lives.

    • He probably does recognise you through (a) scent initially and (b) appearance. He knows you are safe. That is why he is on your bike (a safe spot). Motorbikes seem to be popular in Mumbai. Is that because there is no space for cars?

      • Michael, Mumbai is saturated with cars and motorcycles.Motorcycles are cheap and more convenient for city travel, especially if single.”Parking” is a major headache in Mumbai and thats where motorcycles score over cars.Our building has one of the highest car and motorcycle densities with parking being a problem.As for me, have always been a “2-wheeler” commuter, either a cycle or a motorcycle.

          • Michael, parts of Mumbai are on par with the best of “First World Country’s”. Many buildings have swimming pools in the plush areas. Underground parking is common as is “Lift Parking” in most upscale buildings which incles my locality, a very upscale locality of Mumbai. Our building is a 38 year old building having a large garden and hence modern innovations like “Underground Parking” or “Lift Parking” is not possible.In future when they demolish this building it might change-over into a “Swimming pool cum “lift Parking,underground parking “, Only tragedy, i might not be able to afford to live in the locality as the maintenance charges would “Sky-rocket”. Mumbai is becoming a bit like London where living in the city center is beyond the reach of the average “Middle-Class Mumbaikar”.At present i follow the late Michael.Jacksons philosophy, quote, “Earn a millionaires income but live like a billionaire” !As a bachelor i don’t plan too much into the future and till date happy with my pets and other activities including interacting with bloggers from “P.O.C”. Hope i have given you a 21st century image of Mumbai city.

  3. Very interesting Michael, I think most domestic cats like their own personal space, just like us, sometimes we want to be alone. Ferals seem to like to be closer together, the CP colonies like to feed in a close group and I expect they snuggle up together to sleep to keep warm.

    • Good point Ruth. Feral cats might be closer together because they congregate at food sources and waive goodbye to the idea of having some territorial space. It is about survival overriding an inherent desire.

      • Isn’t it sad Michael, such beautiful cats living rough and all because of ignorant or cruel people in the first place.

        • It is sad that they have to modify so much their natural instincts. These cats are eating so bunch together. I guess they would keep a bit of distance when doing nothing.

  4. Some cats seem to like snuggling up together but our two boys subscribe to the own space theory, they never sit close and never really touch each other (apart from when Walter is in naughty boy mode and jumps on Jozefs back that is)though having said that sometimes, not very often, Jozef comes into my bedroom at night and gets on the bottom of the bed beside Walter, but they still don’t lie together, there’s always a space between them.

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