What do cats and fishing have in common?
Personal space and territories are just as important to dedicated anglers as they are to our cats.
Yesterday, I played hooky to spend an afternoon with my husband kayak fishing in one of our neighborhood lakes. This lake draws anglers of all ages and skill levels. Since I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand, my experience is above average taking on saltwater and fresh, patiently sitting on docks, wading in the historic Shenandoah River, and even relishing the privilege of fishing with pro anglers.[i] With this experience, I also learned there is a code of ethics that runs deep with those that value this wildlife resource.
I was reminded of the unspoken code of personal fishing space during our outing when mine was invaded by a boat with oblivious occupants. If I’d been a more like a tom cat, I would have hissed, growled, and clawed to defend my territory. Instead, I found myself abandoning my position, grumbling, and fussing.
Sound familiar? Just as humans, cats have space and territory rules. Each cat requires personal space, common territory, and a wider space considered home range. In the wild, these territories can extend for miles, so in homes or especially smaller apartments, recognizing and accommodating these special needs is critical. Cats place more reliance on the security of their territory than their psychological attachments to their humans. And perception of lack of control over their territories or perceived territory threats can lead to problem behaviors. Each cat must have its own personal space, where they can retreat for downtime or a bolt hole for security. At times, feline companions may be invited into this sacred space, but should never be forced to share.
Territories and home range can overlap or be combined, but then pathways or vertical spaces can be just as important as personal spaces to reduce stress and offer separation from sight, sound, and sound of other animals, even the human type. Vulnerable common territories can be hallways, litter box access and egress, and feeding areas. Create pathways such as the space behind a sofa or offer vertical spaces over furnishings for escape routes and be especially careful with feeding areas for encroaching behaviors that lead to competition.
Example: Personal Space, Territory and Range
Look for the code of ethics or rules your felines have created within their living space. Be creative with solutions and know that the rules of hierarchy can change from room to room. Remember too, one of the most valuable resources might be your lap. Sometimes it’s personal space and at other times it might be a shared territory. Learn to recognize any ensuing behaviors that may be the result of this conflicting scenario.
As for the clueless fishermen, they were later seen overtaking yet another kayaker’s fishing space. Maybe their inflatable boat needs to meet the neighborhood tom cat.
[i] Growing up, any catch was for food, but ever since I’ve practiced catch and release.
© Terri Symonds Grow 2022
Terri Grow writes and speaks on pet health and welfare, working with veterinarians, trainers, shelters and manufacturers to empower canine and feline health through diets, herbal therapies, supplements and environmental adjustments.