Your tomcat may not realize how small he is. In his mind he is a massive mound of fighting furry fury fully capable of patrolling and protecting his territory. If you've seen your normally mild-mannered and loving cat chasing the neighbor's tom, it may be over a territorial dispute.
Whether he is an outdoor cat, an indoor kitty or a little of both, your male cat has an idea of what territory is his and what the boundaries are. He will do what he has to in order to protect his domain from interlopers, which usually mean other male cats and sometimes female cats, too.
If an unfortunate cat stranger stumbles into your cat's territory, your tom will begin posturing with acts that tell the intruder that he should be heading back to where he came from or be prepared to pay the consequences. Your cat's pupils will narrow to slits or dilate and be rounded as he fixes his eyes on the trespasser. His ears will be held erect towards the front or may be swiveled sideways. He'll be standing with his hind quarters a bit higher than his shoulders to indicate that he is ready to spring into action. Your cat will probably give a low growl before swatting at the strange tom and will attack, chasing the other male off of what he considers to be his property.
Aggression in the Home
Cats with access to the outdoors aren't the only ones who might display territorial aggression. House cats often map out areas inside a home that they consider to be their personal space. Territorial aggression inside a house can occur when you bring a new cat into the home. The established tom might behave aggressively if suddenly confronted with a new male housemate, showing his dominance to make the point that he was there first.
Tips for Handling Aggression
Because issues of territory are inborn behaviors, it may not be possible to totally control aggressive behavior in your male cat, but there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of aggressive behavior developing and injuries occurring. On PetPlace.com veterinarians Nicholas Dodman and Alice Moon-Fanelli recommend neutering all male cats. "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats" recommends neutering before the age of 6 months to greatly reduce fighting and aggressive behavior in male cats. PetPlace.com advises keeping your tomcat's nails trimmed whether he is an indoor or an outdoor cat to reduce the chance that he'll inflict injury on another cat. Also, putting a bell on your male cat's collar will warn other cats of his presence, preventing him from getting the jump on an unsuspecting stranger. For house cats who might be having territory issues, rubbing them with a cloth or towel that has the other cat's scent on it will get them used to each other's individual smell.
Cat fights are bound to break out now and then, even between usually friendly housemates. PetPlace.com warns cat parents not to reach into the midst of a pair of brawling cats. Using a broom or blanket to separate them is much safer for you. Disrupting the fight by making a loud noise or dropping something heavy on the floor is another effective technique. It will be necessary to separate the two cats until their aggression subsides and they are capable of playing nice again.
- The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats; The Editors of Prevention Magazine Health Books
- VetInfo: Managing Cat Aggression Without Medication
- PetPlace.com: Inter-Cat Aggression
- PetPlace.com: Introduction to Feline Aggression
- Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images