Do Cats See Us as Their Servants? The Curious Case of Who’s Really in Charge


For many cat owners, it can sometimes feel like their feline companions think they’re the true masters of the household. Cats have a reputation for being aloof, independent, and even viewing their humans as servants. This raises an interesting question – do cats really think they own the home they share with us? In this article, we’ll explore cats’ territorial nature, their marking behaviors, and whether they see their house as their territory and humans as intruders or companions. Understanding cats’ perspective on their home and relationships with humans can provide valuable insight for any cat owner and help maintain a happy home.

Cats Are Territorial

Cats are known to be highly territorial animals. According to a 2022 study published in PMC, cats establish a geographic territory that they mark and defend as their own [1]. A cat’s territory provides the resources it needs to survive, including food, water, shelter, and mates. Cats mark their territories by rubbing their cheeks and chin on objects, scratching, urine spraying, and leaving feces in prominent locations. These scent markers signal a cat’s ownership of an area. Invading another cat’s territory can lead to aggressive behavior as cats defend their domains. Underlying a cat’s territorial nature is the instinct to survive and control the resources it needs.

Cats Mark Their Territory

Cats are territorial animals and like to mark areas they consider their own. There are several ways cats mark their territory:

  • Urine spraying – One of the most common ways for cats to mark territory is by urine spraying. Both male and female cats will spray urine on vertical surfaces like walls, furniture, and doorways. Urine contains pheromones that mark the territory as theirs (
  • Rubbing – Cats have scent glands around their mouth, cheeks, tail, and paws. When they rub against objects, they are transferring their scent. This deposits pheromones that claim the area (
  • Scratching – Cats scratch objects like furniture or carpet to mark it with their scent from sweat glands in their paws.
  • Feces – Some cats will deposit feces, or “midden,” in areas they want to claim as theirs.

These territorial markings help communicate a cat’s ownership of an area to other cats. It’s a natural feline behavior.

Cats View Home as Their Territory

Cats have a very strong sense of territory and view the home where they live as part of their domain. According to the National Geographic, scientists have found that cats learn how the different people in a house will react to their behavior, and they begin to act as though they own everything and control all the territory. Cats use many techniques to mark areas as theirs, like rubbing up against furniture and people’s legs, kneading, and scratching.

Cats see their territory as including the entire home, yard, and even their owners. As hunters, cats are very territorial by nature and have a drive to protect what they view as theirs. This means the house and environs where a cat lives will be seen as under the cat’s ownership and control, according to the cat’s perspective.

While humans may think they own the home, cats behave in ways that show they consider the humans simply companions sharing the home the cat owns. Everything in the home is part of a cat’s turf that they can access as they please, whether it’s countertops, tables, shelves or any high vantage points (Source).

Cats See Humans as Companions

Cats are highly social animals and naturally form close bonds with members of their social group. While some cats may view their humans as family or part of their social group, most domestic cats see humans more as companions or friends that they share territory with rather than family members (source). This companion dynamic allows for a mutually beneficial relationship – cats receive food, shelter, and affection while humans receive companionship and emotional benefits.

Cats are believed to have been domesticated around 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent when wild cats began living near early human settlements to prey on rodents. Over time, cats and humans developed a companionship as cats helped control pests and humans provided cats with food. This long history of cohabitation has led to unique social abilities in cats to communicate and form bonds with humans (source).

While a cat may not see their human family as their own kind, they recognize humans as friends and companions to be cared for as part of their social group within the home. With proper care, affection, and understanding of feline behavioral needs, humans can have fulfilling bonds and relationships with their domestic cat companions.

Cats Can Get Territorial with Humans

While cats generally see their human companions as friends, they can sometimes display territorial behaviors towards people as well. Here are some examples of cats acting territorial with humans:

Guarding or patrolling territory. A cat may follow their owner from room to room to “patrol” their space. They may also block access to certain areas like furniture, beds, or doorways by standing in the way.[1]

Swatting or nipping when being moved or petted in some spots. Cats can give warning nips or swats if they don’t want to be touched or picked up.[2]

Marking with urine or feces. Cats may urine mark their territory, even depositing droppings outside the litter box to mark their claim.[3]

Aggressive body language like hissing, growling, or ears back when approached in their claimed spot.

Attacking or chasing humans that get too close to resources they have claimed like food bowls, beds, or territory. They want to protect their resources.

In general, cats may see humans as big companions, but they can still get territorial if they feel their space, resources, or social status is being encroached on.



Setting Boundaries with Cats

It’s important to set boundaries with territorial cats to maintain harmony in your home. Cats can get possessive over areas like countertops, desks, and bedrooms, guarding them intensely. According to The Cat Site, setting healthy boundaries means recognizing your cat’s limitations and working with them instead of against them.

There are several tips for setting firm but gentle boundaries with territorial cats:

  • Create set mealtimes and feeding areas for your cat. This gives them a sense of security about where and when they’ll be fed.
  • Place scratching posts and cat trees in territory-prone areas to give your cat an acceptable place to scratch and perch.
  • Use treats to positively reinforce wanted behaviors like using a scratching post.
  • Block off prohibited areas with baby gates. You can also apply sticky tape or foil to deter your cat.
  • Consider using synthetic feline pheromones to ease tension and calm territorial behaviors.
  • Make sure your cat is spayed/neutered to reduce hormonal territorial urges.

With patience and consistency, you can teach your territorial cat that some areas are off limits while providing appealing alternatives. This allows you both to peacefully share your home.

Providing Your Cat Security

Cats feel more secure when they have places in the home that are just for them. Providing a cat with its own territory and hiding spots can help satisfy their instinctual need for security. This is especially important for anxious or timid cats.

Cat trees, cat condos, and cat shelving give cats vertical territory and allow them to perch up high to survey their surroundings. Place cat trees and shelving near windows so cats can look outside. You can also create hiding places using cardboard boxes, paper bags, and enclosed cat beds. Cats often like to hide in enclosed spaces when they want privacy. Provide hiding spots in multiple rooms of the house so they have options.

Using synthetic feline pheromones like Feliway can also help cats feel more relaxed and secure. Pheromone diffusers and sprays deposit comforting pheromones in the home that mimic those produced by cats. This signals to your cat that their environment is safe and welcoming. Using pheromones when introducing a new cat to a home or when moving to a new house can ease the transition.

Making sure your cat is spayed or neutered can curb territorial behaviors like spraying. Providing adequate playtime and enrichment is also important to satisfy your cat’s instinct to “hunt.” A mentally stimulated, well-exercised cat will feel more settled and secure in the home.

With some adjustments to their environment, you can help your cat feel like the ruler of their territory, even with humans around. A secure cat is a happy cat.

Maintaining a Happy Home

While cats may view your home as their territory, there are things you can do to maintain a happy home for both you and your cat. Here are some tips:

Provide plenty of vertical territory like cat trees, shelves, and window perches so your cat has places to observe from up high [1]. Cats feel more secure when they can view their territory from above.

Make sure your cat has scratching posts and pads placed around your home so they can mark their territory appropriately [2]. This will keep them from scratching your furniture.

Consider feeding your cat in different areas around the house so they feel comfortable in all parts of their territory.

Play with your cat regularly using interactive toys to burn off energy and strengthen your bond. A securely bonded cat is less likely to act territorial.

Respect your cat’s boundaries. If they hiss or swat when being petted, give them space. And never physically punish territorial behaviors like spraying.

Overall, recognizing your home is your cat’s territory too and accommodating some of their natural behaviors will create a happy home for all.


To conclude, while cats may not think of our homes as belonging solely to them, their territorial instincts mean they do view the home as their domain. Cats want to feel secure and in control of their environment. By understanding your cat’s need for security, providing plenty of territory markers like scratching posts, and setting reasonable boundaries, you can maintain a happy home for both you and your feline companion. With some mutual understanding and respect, humans and cats can peacefully cohabitate.

Cats have a natural desire to mark and patrol their territory. While this can lead to behaviors like scratching furniture or hissing at guests, it’s important not to interpret it as a power play. Your cat isn’t trying to dominate you or claim your house as their own. They simply want to feel safe and secure within their territory. With some patience and training, both humans and cats can be comfortable sharing the home.

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