Would Your Cat Defend You in a Fight?

Cats Have Protective Instincts

Despite their small size, cats still possess the protective instincts of their larger wild feline ancestors. As natural predators, cats are inherently territorial and will defend their territory and family members from intruders. Even domestic house cats retain these protective behaviors. For example, when an unknown person enters a cat’s territory, they are likely to respond with behaviors like hissing, growling, and swiping their paws to scare away the intruder. Cats may also block doorways and stand between their family and the intruder. According to an article by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, “When cats feel their territory or loved ones are threatened, their protective instincts kick in.”1 So while our pet cats are typically smaller predators than lions or tigers, they absolutely have the same innate desire to protect their territory and family.

Examples of Cats Defending Owners

There are many real-world examples of domestic cats defending or protecting their owners from threats. Here are some notable cases:

In Indianapolis, a cat named Eevee protected her family from an intruder trying to break into their home. The cat scratched and hissed at the intruder until he fled (source).

A cat in Oregon lunged at a dog that was attacking his owner, distracting the dog long enough for the owner to get away safely (source).

Security camera footage shows a cat in Brazil jumping on an armed robber and chasing him out of a store he was trying to rob (video).

There are also many anecdotal reports of cats alerting owners to intruders, snakes, fires, and other threats in the home.

While most cats are not trained to be actively protective, their defensive instincts can kick in if they sense their owner is in danger.

Training Cats to Be Protective

While cats are independent creatures and challenging to train, there are some strategies you can use to encourage protective behavior in your cat. According to https://animalreport.net/can-you-train-a-cat-to-attack-and-protect-you/, the key is enhancing your cat’s natural reflexes and instincts through play and training exercises.

Teaching your cat to come when called can allow you to summon them when you feel threatened. Use treats and positive reinforcement to associate coming to you with rewards. You can also teach your cat to act ferocious on command by associating a specific word or sound with them hissing or posturing aggressively. Reward this behavior at first.

Agility training is another way to sharpen your cat’s reflexes and protective capabilities. Have them chase toys and engage in “hunting exercises” daily. Puzzle feeders can also build mental sharpness. While cats likely won’t fend off an attacker, these types of training can help bring out their protective inclinations.

Cat Breeds Prone to Protectiveness

Certain cat breeds are known for being more protective of their owners than others. This is often related to the breed’s territorial instincts, tendency to bond closely with their family, intelligence, vocal nature, and athleticism. Some of the most protective cat breeds include:

Siamese cats are extremely loyal and often bond very closely with their owner. They are vocal cats and will sound the alarm if they sense a threat. According to PetCareRx, the Siamese is known for being a good “watch cat” thanks to their alert and vocal nature.

Maine Coon cats are working cats that have strong protective instincts. Their large size and athleticism also enables them to be capable protectors. Maine Coons are devoted to their families and when properly trained and socialized can make excellent guard cats.

Abyssinian cats are energetic, smart and intensely bonded with their families. They are naturally defensive of their territory and wary of strangers. Abys tend to give loud verbal warnings to alert owners of anything unusual.

Other potentially protective breeds include the feisty Burmese, the loyal Norwegian Forest Cat, and the watchful Bengal.

Protective Cat Body Language

Cats use various forms of body language and vocalizations to show when they feel threatened or are being protective. Some common signs of protective body language in cats include:

Arched Back – When a cat arches their back, it’s a sign they feel threatened and are trying to appear larger to the perceived threat. An arched back with the fur standing on end can signal a cat is being protective and defensive. (Source)

Flattened Ears – Ears flattened back against the head often indicates fear, anxiety or aggression in cats. It’s a way for the cat to protect their ears during a confrontation. Flat ears paired with hissing or growling can signify a cat is being protective. (Source)

Yowling/Hissing -When feeling threatened, cats will often vocalize warnings with yowls, growls or hisses. These sounds paired with defensive body language are meant to scare off the perceived threat. A cat yowling at an intruder is them being protective of their territory. (Source)

Swishing Tail – A cat swishing their tail quickly back and forth demonstrates agitation and over-stimulation. It can signal a warning that the cat may lash out defensively with scratching or biting. When paired with other protective body language, tail swishing shows a cat is feeling threatened. (Source)

When Cats Won’t Protect

While some cats may exhibit protective behaviors towards their owners, there are times when a cat’s natural instincts will lead them to flee rather than fight when faced with a threat. Here are some reasons why a cat may not protect their owner:

Flight over fight response – When cats feel severely threatened, their instinctual reaction is often to flee and hide rather than confront the threat directly. This is because cats are small animals and not equipped to fend off larger predators. So even very bonded cats may run and hide when faced with an intruder or attack.

Unfamiliarity with threat – If the threat is something a cat has never encountered before, such as a strange person entering the home, the uncertainly of the situation may cause the cat to flee. Cats prefer to hide from things they don’t understand.

Instinct to protect themselves first – While devoted to their owners, a cat’s strongest instinct is for self-preservation. If the threat is perceived as very dangerous, they may flee to protect themselves rather than try to defend their owner.

Lack of attachment – Cats that are poorly socialized, unsocialized to humans, or have a weak bond with their owner will be less likely to show protective behaviors compared to strongly bonded cats.

By understanding cats’ natural instincts, we can better comprehend why cats sometimes react to threats by fleeing or hiding. While some cats may valiantly defend their owners, it’s not necessarily an innate trait of the species. But it doesn’t mean they don’t care – just that their survival instincts kick in first.

Is a Cat Enough to Stop an Attacker?

While cats can display protective behaviors towards their owners, most experts agree that a cat is not likely to physically stop a human attacker. There are a few key reasons for this:

Size Difference – An average cat weighs 8-10 pounds while an average adult human male weighs around 200 pounds. This massive size difference means a cat does not have the physical strength to fend off an adult human.

Weapons – Most human attackers will be armed with some kind of weapon which gives them a huge advantage over a small cat. Even unarmed, an average adult can easily overpower a cat.

Fight or Flight – When faced with a dangerous threat, a cat’s natural instinct is to flee rather than fight. Cats do not have the same protective pack mentality as dogs and are more prone to run from confrontation.

While cats may attempt to defend by hissing, clawing or biting, this reaction is unlikely to do more than startle or temporarily distract the attacker. However, this could potentially buy the owner some extra flee time. Overall though, a cat does not have the physical capability to fend off a determined human assailant (source).

Rather than relying on a cat for protection, it is better for owners to take preventative safety measures, be aware of one’s surroundings, and have a plan for defense or escape. Cats can provide comfort and emotional support during dangerous situations, but should not be expected to physically defend against an attacker.

Other Protective Pet Options

While cats can be protective in certain situations, dogs are generally considered better at guarding and defending their owners. According to the American Kennel Club, breeds like Dobermans, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds make excellent guard dogs due to their intelligence, loyalty, and protective instincts (source).

Compared to cats, dogs tend to be larger, stronger, and more obedient when properly trained. Dogs can be taught specific commands to defend and protect on cue. Their sheer size and intimidating appearance alone is often enough to deter potential threats. Additionally, dogs typically have a stronger pack mentality and bonding with their human family.

However, cats may be better suited than dogs for indoor protection and some living situations. Cats are usually quieter and require less maintenance than high energy guard dog breeds. Both cats and dogs can serve as loving companions that make a home feel more secure.

Ultimately, while a cat may defend its owner in specific circumstances, dogs have a greater natural instinct and ability to be trained as guardians. But any pet that creates a sense of comfort and belonging can be considered protective in its own way.

Safety Tips for Cat Owners

While cats can potentially protect their owners in dangerous situations, it’s important not to rely solely on your cat for protection. There are several other safety precautions cat owners should take:

Secure windows and doors – Make sure all windows and doors are locked when leaving cats home alone. Screens can also be installed on windows for ventilation while preventing cats from falling out.

Put away choking hazards – Small items like rubber bands, strings, paper clips should be kept in closed containers. Food like raisins and grapes should also be kept out of reach.

Have an emergency plan – Keep emergency vet contacts handy and have a plan for who can care for your cat if you are hospitalized.

ID and microchip your cat – Make sure your cat has identification tags and is microchipped in case they get lost. This ensures you can be contacted if your cat is found.

Check for hazards – Look for exposed wires, toxic chemicals, or poisonous plants that cats could chew on. Place hazardous items in secure, pet-proof areas.

Consider home security – Installing a security system, outdoor lighting, or cameras can enhance home security beyond just relying on your cat.

Train your cat – While protective instincts are natural in cats, some training can make cats more attuned to potential threats. Reward calm, protective behavior.

Don’t let cats roam unsupervised – Outdoor access should be limited or supervised to prevent cats from getting lost, injured or in fights.

Ask neighbors for help – If going away, inform nearby neighbors who can check on your cat in an emergency.

Consider other pets – While cats can be protective, larger dogs specifically bred for guarding can provide enhanced security.

Ultimately, cats can be wonderful companions that create a sense of comfort and security. But responsible pet owners should take all precautions to keep their homes safe, not just depend on their cat’s protective abilities.

The Bond Between Cats and Owners

Many cat owners have experienced the profound loyalty and protectiveness their feline companions can show towards them. While cats can sometimes seem aloof, they often form deep bonds with their human families and will go to great lengths to defend and protect them when needed.

There are numerous stories of cats leaping to the defense of owners who are under threat. For example, in 2015 a cat named Tara attacked a dog that was mauling her owner’s child, suffering severe injuries but allowing the child to escape (source). Tara’s bravery and sacrifice for the little boy demonstrated the powerful protective instinct cats can have.

Cats have also been known to alert others when their owner is in danger or unwell. In one case, a cat named Piran scratched at a neighbor’s door for help after his elderly owner fell down the stairs and was immobilized (source). His persistence brought aid to his owner.

While each cat’s personality is different, these examples show how cats often feel a duty to watch over and safeguard their human families. Their loyalty and capacity for selfless action on behalf of their owners can be remarkable.

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