You might be surprised to discover that cats are quite territorial. Cats spend most of their time guarding their territory, which includes your house and usually, you!
There have even been cases of cats attacking intruders or animals that are threatening their family members. It’s definitely a form of a compliment: If your cat protects you, even if it’s from your roommate or significant other, it means that your cat trusts and loves you.
Here, we look at the signs that your cat is most likely in protection mode. We also look at the typical territorial behaviors that cats demonstrate, including ones that they can display when under threat.
These are the typical signs that your cat is in protection mode.
The 8 Signs Your Cat is Protecting You
1. Puffed-out fur
When cats are feeling threatened and ready to defend themselves or you, they tend to puff out their fur, making them appear much bigger.
You’ll notice the fur being particularly puffy along the spine and on the tail, which is called piloerection. This is a response through the nervous system that occurs due to natural reflexes in reaction to shock, anger, or fright.
2. Arched Back
Cats will use a variety of body language signs to show they are acting defensively. Most cats will arch their backs, stand sideways, and do an almost crab-like walk, along with hopping on stiff legs.
All these signs are designed to make the cat look large and threatening toward the intruder.
3. Tail Movement
When a cat isn’t sure where things stand, their tail will be held low to the ground and usually lashing back and forth in quick movements. However, the tail might puff up and be kept low with an elevated rear end, like the traditional Halloween cat posture.
This position can be either offensive or defensive. A cat’s tail is a great way of reading their mood at a glance.
4. Ear Movement
Initially, their ears will be turned out and alert and potentially swiveling, enabling the cat to stay alert and listen for approaching danger. When a cat is in full attack or protection mode, their ears will usually flatten fully against their head.
A cat taking an aggressive position will potentially position their ears backward without fully flattening them. This helps protect their ears from a potential fight.
5. Eye Pupils
When a cat is dealing with danger, they will make intense eye contact, and the pupils might be either tiny slits or fully dilated.
If the cat is in more of a defensive rather than offensive position, the pupils are usually dilated, and the brow is furrowed. Dilating the eyes gives the cat much wider peripheral vision so they can better observe any approaching dangers.
An aggressive cat is more likely to have narrow pupils because it gives them much better depth perception in order to determine the best attack.
6. Whisker Positions
For a cat that is feeling anxious or afraid, their whiskers will start to move back, usually in conjunction with the ears. The more frightened the cat is, the farther back they will pull their whiskers.
An aggressive cat will immediately pull their whiskers back and flat against their faces, as a means of protection.
This is where there’s no doubt that your cat is in protection mode! Once your cat starts hissing, spitting, and growling, they are sending out a warning. They are saying that they are angry, annoyed, or afraid and are telling the threat to stay back!
Hissing is also an effective way for cats to show off one of their best weapons: their sharp teeth. Sometimes the hissing is accompanied by swatting their claws in the direction of the threat.
Generally, cats want to avoid confrontation, so their body language combined with growling and hissing are warnings that the intruder shouldn’t mess with them.
8. Biting and Scratching
If their warnings are not heeded, cats will go into full-on attack mode. They will use their claws more than their teeth — it’s safer to use their claws because they don’t need to get as close to the intruder.
There have been several cases of cats attacking people and animals through biting and scratching in order to protect their loved ones.
Cats demonstrate several territorial behaviors, primarily through marking. You’ve seen this when your cat rubs their cheeks and body against items in your home, including you and your family. They can also mark by scratching and unneutered males will spray urine.
Cats will also show their territorial natures through aggressiveness. If the neighborhood cat is visiting outside, your cat may start hissing and hitting the windows in the intruder’s direction.
Typical Cat Behaviors When Under Threat
Other than overt aggressive behaviors, cats will usually have a flight-or-fight response to danger. So, cats will either fight or they will run and hide. Sometimes they might freeze like a deer in headlights.
How a cat reacts in a situation in which there is a direct threat completely depends on the cat’s temperament and personality. Not all cats will be interested in protecting anyone but themselves, and that’s okay.
Keep in mind that you can’t rely on these signs to determine if your cat is protecting you. Different circumstances can make these responses happen, such as bright light making your cat’s pupils narrow. Usually, when a cat goes into protection mode, most, if not all, of these signs will occur in an escalating manner.
But while many cats will try to protect you in certain circumstances, not every cat will. Some cats are timid and anxious by nature and not as likely to look after you in this way. Just enjoy your time with your cat without any expectations, and you’ll end up appreciating each other’s company overall.
Featured Image: evrymmnt, Shutterstock