Behavioral problems

Why is My Cat So Possessive?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: September 2, 2018
Why is My Cat So Possessive?

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Jealousy is not a personality trait reserved only for humans[1]. It is common to see many cats either gradually or suddenly become possessive over their human guardians. While some people may take this as a simple sign of affectionate attachment, a possessive cat can actually be a risk to themselves, to their owners and others around them. This is especially the case when possessiveness turns to aggressiveness. It can cause behavioral problems when vistors arrive in the home or if a new member of the family is not properly introduced to a cat's territory. It can make a healthy co-existence all but impossible.

Have you noticed your cat gets jealous when others give you attention? Do they behave inappropriately when others are in the room. If so, AnimalWised is here to help you understand why your cat is so possessive and what you can do about it.

You may also be interested in: Why is my Dog Possessive with Toys?


  1. Why are cats possessive of their owners?
  2. How to recognize a possessive cat
  3. What to do if your cat is very possessive with you

Why are cats possessive of their owners?

To answer this question, it can be helpful to think a little about human behavior. When a person feels jealous of someone, it is usually a sign they are afraid of losing their attention or being replaced by someone or something else. This means when a new person arrives into a situation, instead of it being seen as an opportunity to share in new experiences together, it is viewed as a possible threat to the stable relationship which existed before the new arrival.

As with human beings, cats can become possessive with their guardians. They may not want to share their affection and fun moments with anyone else. However, the reason behind the jealousy is not as complex as what happens to the human psyche. The most common cause of this behavior in the animal world is defined as a protection of resources. This is because cats are creatures of routine as a way to preserve their well-being and avoid dangerous or unpleasant situations. This routine is not simply when to eat or where they go in their environment. It also involves the people and animals with which they interact over the course of a day. If a cat is accustomed to living alone with their owner and someone else enters the picture, they can perceive this as a threat to their well-being and become possessive.

The presence of a new person in a cat's life can threaten their stability and generate an instinctual rejection. In this way, it is not that it feels jealousy in that it affects their ego or emotional insecurity. It is not through malice or the rejection of an individual's character. It is because another person can threaten the relationship a cat has with their guardian as they are their resource for food, shelter and security.

Possessiveness due to a fear of losing resources usually occurs when a cat has not been socialized properly when they were young. They have not had the opportunity to learn how to relate positively with other animals, people or even toys. When they are exposed abruptly to the presence of an unknown being they essentially don't know how to deal with it and act out accordingly. They feel like their space is being invaded and the things they want and need are going to be taken away from them.

A cat might also feel displaced if their human friend stops paying attention to them. This is especially so if there is a new person in the family, perhaps even more so with a new animal. Unfortunately, this can be very common in couples who decide to have a child. As a child requires constant care and attention from new parents, the cat can have an understandable reduction in the attention they receive.

Also, cats which have experienced trauma previously may exhibit possessive behavior. If you adopt a cat into your life and then spend all your time together, then you will often feel a strong bond. The cat goes from a stressful situation to a loving one and they become dependent on you. If you bring someone new into this situation, they can feel more threatened as they fear they might go back to the stressful way of things. This can be exacerbated by gender. For example, if a person was abused by a man and goes to live in a new home with a woman. When a man comes into the relationship, the cat can have a natural aversion and become more possessive.

How to recognize a possessive cat

Cats use their body language to express their feelings and perceptions. Therefore, when they feel possessive of their guardian of overprotective of their resources, you can see it in how they behave. Pay attention to the following signs if you think your cat may be too possessive:

  • Mood changes: a cat may be depressed as they feel abandoned by their guardian. They may respond by developing hyperactivity to try to gain their owner's attention.
  • Hiding: your cat may leave and hide whenever a new person comes into the frame, trying to make you look for them or running away out of fear.
  • Agitation: possessive ad jealous humans often act out physically and cats can do the same. They may start attacking the new person or they may even attack you as a way to get your attention. If there is a new pet in the family, in particular, then a possessive cat may attack them (although it is important to distinguish betwen attacking and playing).
  • Depression: your cat may become depressed and lethargic if they feel they are being threatened by someone else. They may not respond to petting or playing as much and spend all their time sleeping instead of engaging.

If there is a new cat entering the household, you may want to take a look at our article on how to introduce a new cat into the home to see what you need to do for a smooth transition.

Why is My Cat So Possessive? - How to recognize a possessive cat

What to do if your cat is very possessive with you

As with many diseases, possessiveness is better dealt in terms of prevention rather than cure. Ensure your cat is socialized early if you want to prevent your cat from becoming possessive in the future. During their adolescence, kittens will learn the nature of coexistence, but making sure they stay with their mother and the rest of the litter for at least 8 weeks is very important for this also. After their first round of vaccinations and deworming, you can start introducing them to other humans, other cats and other pets. If you have adopted an adult cat, you may need some help on how to socialize an adult cat.

If you decide to bring a new cat into the home, it is vital you prepare any existing cats for their arrival. It is also essential to prepare your home to receive this new family member. A cat must have its own toys, food bowl, drinking water and even their own litter tray. Remember not to spend more time with another cat and let them monopolize your attention. This is unless the cat does not enjoy much interaction.

If you move in with a partner, get a new roommate or even have a new arrival in the form of a baby, it's crucial you don't stop providing them with attention and affection. Our cats should feel part of the fail and not that they will be replaced or ignored.

If you notice you cat becoming too aggressive and you are unable to handle it, you may need to bring in an ethologist or cat behavior specialist. Take them to the vet and ask them for advice. Some cats become aggressive for other reasons, whether psychological or physical, so they will also be able to rule out any underlying pathology.

Why is My Cat So Possessive? - What to do if your cat is very possessive with you

If you want to read similar articles to Why is My Cat So Possessive?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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I have two male cats (3 years old) both from the same litter. Everything was fine until about 6 months ago when Odie became jealous of Garfield and started attacking him. I have tried spraying him with a water spray, when he does it. When that didn't work, I tried putting him in time out in the bathroom. Neither of these works. His attacks became more frequent over time and Garfield is now constantly guarded, in fear of getting attacked. Garfield is a very affectionate cat but Odie isn't. Odie will come and lie beside me sometimes but doesn't really like to be patted. He lets me know very quickly when he doesn't want to be patted. If I go to pat Garfield or Garfield comes near me, Odie immediately comes over even though he is not looking for attention.. Garfield hops up hisses and moves away in fear of getting attacked. Even when they are outside Odie will attack him. Garfield rarely gets attention anymore because of Odie's bad behaviour. I have tried rehoming Odie but can not find a home for him. I suffer major depression and having to constantly monitor this bad behaviour is taking it's toll on me. I am 66, live alone, and rarely get visitors, which hasn't helped the situation, because the cats are not socialised. My grandson used to pat them, but is now scared of them after he saw one of the attacks.
I have been away on a job for a long period of time. I have been home now for 4 months and my cat at first was mad at me but now has become extremely demanding of my attention and if I speak to someone else he growls and hisses at me while in my lap. And just prior to that he was mega purring. Today my friend came over and he sat in front of me and just glared at her. Then tried to crawl into my lap. He is sitting in my lap when he growls at me. It frightens me a bit because he is so close to my face and throat and I know how fast they can move when they attack. What can I do?
Your cat is furious at you. Before a cat bites you, it stares at the place in you that it is going to attack. Si uf the cat is staring intently at your arm and when you move your arm from side to side the cat follows your arm with his eyes, it is getting ready to bite you. So the cat isn't going to attack your face or neck unless it is staring at them first. Just stay aware of how the cat is looking at you. Get some treats and have other people feed them to the cat when they come over. Don't give the cat any treats yourself. Let it me a gift that only comes from company. The cat will learn to love when people come over. When company comes over, pick the cat up. Don't make it jump into your lap for safety. The cat is being aggressive because it feels like it could lose you and that makes it feel unsafe. So pick the cat up and have the company feed it treats and the cat will jump off your lap and focus on the other person and the treats. The way to make a cat that wants to much attention is to give it more attention. Once it learns that the attention is a given it will become less demanding. It is just a faze. It will pass.
Carla S Morris
I have a tabby who made his way to my door step a year ago, he was very young maybe 6 or 8 weeks old.
Without hesitation I took the crying little tabby in. I live in a rural part of town lots of coyote's in our yard so its odd to see this little guy alone, sadly I'm thinking his mom ( family ) were victims. We bonded..and aside from being a normal very active young cat, who sleeps in the weirdest positions.
he is very attached to me follows me everywhere, always in my lap, cries for me when I leave the room. My question this odd behavior for a cat? Also..should I worry about getting him fixed so he doesn't eventually stray away knowing that it will change his personality.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Carla,

Firstly, thanks for sharing your story. Your kindness looks to be changing this little guy's life and it seems he appreciates it. You are providing for him and giving him the practical help and emotional support he needs, so it is not abnormal. It is a misconception that cats are not loving animals. They can bond and they can bond strong.

Sleeping in these odd positions may be quirky, but as long as they are showing no signs of pain or discomfort, then you just have a quirky cat on your hands. Cats are very flexible and will sleep in any way they want to.

In terms of getting him neutered, it won't change his personality. What it will do is lessen aspects of his behavior which are associated with the hormonal ups and downs of a mating drive. It will also improve his life expectancy, reduce the risk of certain cancers and make him less likely to run away. His other personality traits unrelated this type of hormone production will remain intact. One thing you should be careful of is that it does affect their metabolism, so it is possible they will put on weight if you don't amend their diet. Here is some more information if it is helpful:
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Why is My Cat So Possessive?