The Hervey Foundation for Cats
What is Resource Guarding, Why is Your Cat Defensive, and What Do You Do?

What is Resource Guarding, Why is Your Cat Defensive, and What Do You Do?

If you spend a lot of time fostering or working with cats, you may have come across it more frequently than others. We are, of course, talking about resource guarding. 

Some cats have intense issues with perceived resource availability and will act on their feelings of vulnerability. This is resource guarding. It often happens regardless of the true availability of said resource (be it food, attention, or a number of other things) and is usually born of previous trauma. When a cat acts out in this way, they often hiss, meow, swat or attack any other cats, or in some cases, humans, that come near them or pose a ‘threat’ to their resource.

How Does This Behaviour Start?

It’s often born of a sad situation. Cats who have lived on the streets or in shelters for a long period of time or those who have lived in situations where there are too many cats in a home. There are other situations, too, where if cats have had to fight for their food, attention, or anything else, they may have a strong chance of behaving this way. 

For cats afflicted by resource guarding behavior, there is usually also a stress trigger involved. This can happen in a cat that seems otherwise calm on its own when a new cat enters the house. The stress of now having to share their territory can throw them into a stressful headspace, causing them to resource guard. This also goes for when a new family member joins the house, or perhaps one leaves – any sort of major change to the home can trigger it.

Things Cats Might Resource Guard

  • People
  • Toys
  • Food
  • Cat Beds
  • Litter Boxes
  • Cat Trees
  • Napping Spots

Steps to Take to Reduce Resource Guarding

First of all, if you live in a multi-cat home, give them each their own food bowls. Sharing is not ideal unless it is a behaviour that came with your cats (think shelter bonded pairs). 

Only purchase open-air litter boxes. This way the cats cannot be trapped by other cats inside. In that same vein, cats cannot be prevented from using it. Also make sure you provide multiple litter boxes for multiple cats. Ideally 1.5 boxes per cat (1 for 1, 3 for 2).

Make sure you have plenty of toys and other ‘possessions’ for the cats. They will often gravitate to their favourites and the lack of a shortage may help calm them over time.

Lastly, the most important element is to provide quality one-on-one time with each cat to let them know they are loved and cared for. Make sure you also praise them for being together and not guarding or fighting. It’s important to use positive reinforcement with cats to help them build trust of each other, you, and their living situation. 

If you are introducing a new cat to your home, and you already have another one there, be sure to check out our blog: How to Introduce a New Cat to Your Home

Dan Huen & Choice OMG

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