Outdoor cats and conflicts with other cats

Cats owners are quite laissez-faire about their outdoor cat coming into conflict with other cats. That certainly applies in England. Cat owners move to a new area and let their cat go outside perhaps after a period inside to acclimatise.

For the cat this is a source of conflict and stress. A cat in a new home with a backyard (garden) will likely be faced with other cats who have already established territory in his backyard. The backyard may be owned in effect by another cat or cats might share it.

Cat conflicts for outside cats
Cat conflicts for outside cats
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If that is the case the newcomer cat will have to establish himself and enforce his rights in his own backyard. The only way to do this is to see off the other cat or cats who have gained rights to the yard because it was undefended. This conflict may go on for a long time.

A survey indicated that 66% (two-thirds) of cat owners reported that their cat avoided making contact with other cats in the area. Dr John Bradshaw writes

“and, frankly, the other third probably hadn’t looked out of their windows often enough”.

Also a third of cat owners reported seeing their cat fighting with another in their neighbourhood. As mentioned, cat owners can be too relaxed about these conflicts both actual and psychological. But they can affect a cat’s health in terms of stress and injuries such as abscesses from cat bites. Abscesses almost always require veterinary treatment unless the cat’s owner has prior experience and the requisite skills.

We know that stressed cats can start to defecate and/or urinate in the home. Cat owners should be aware that the cause may the one mentioned above.

If calm does descend upon the cat fraternity in the area it can disturbed if and when the cat’s owner goes on holiday and their cat is boarded in a cattery. During the absence of the owner’s cat, neighbouring cats may reinvade the backyard reigniting the cat wars. The invasion would be due to the fading scent marks of the absent cat giving the impression that he had gone from the territory.

A good percentage of cat owners will keep their cats indoors partly to avoid the above problems. However, indoor cat life presents other potential problems which I have covered extensively on PoC.

There are signs that a cat is unable to establish his territory outside the owner’s home. The cat’s behaviour may include:

  • being unwilling to leave the house even when encouraged
  • not using the cat flap (cat door) but preferring to be let outside by the owner
  • unknown neighbour cats entering the home via the cat flap
  • only leaving the house when the owner is in the backyard
  • spending lots of time watching outside activity from a window
  • moving away from windows when a cat is spotted in the backyard (garden)
  • running into the house and hiding or finding a safe place
  • interacting with the owner in a tense or slightly aggressive way sometimes
  • urinating and defecating inside the home when he could do it outside
  • spraying inside the house
  • excessive grooming due to stress

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