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I have two cats, one has been a part of the household for a few years, the other is younger and was introduced in January of this year.

The younger cat (about 1 year old) is obsessed with watching our other cat use the litter box. She is not aggressive about it, but just sits right next to the box. The older cat hisses and runs aways when she gets out of the litter box, which seems to indicate she wants her privacy.

I'm concerned that this behavior will impact the relationship between my cats and am interested in finding out how I can give my older cat more privacy when she's in the litter box or discourage the younger cat from watching her.

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  • Does the older cat show signs of "wanting her privacy"? Animals in general do feel less shame in this topics of life. I would assume the younger cat watchs the older to learn (not only in this situation, but more general) Oct 25, 2022 at 7:30
  • Good question @Allerleirauh - yes, the older cat hisses and runs aways when she gets out of the litter box.
    – hopejotet
    Oct 25, 2022 at 13:54
  • Hey, @hopejotet I've made a somewhat large update to your post in response to the first comment and to include your information about how your older cat behaves. I hope this edit still gets at your intent in asking this question but please feel free to edit it further if you have additional details or if the updated question doesn't sufficiently capture your needs.
    – Catija
    Oct 25, 2022 at 22:57
  • Maybe of interest: How many litter boxes? pets.stackexchange.com/questions/996/… Oct 26, 2022 at 9:58
  • @Catija - thank you! Your edits are consistent with my intent.
    – hopejotet
    Oct 26, 2022 at 15:05

1 Answer 1

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This actually might be less of an issue about privacy and more of an issue about resource guarding.

This can be a problem in multi-cat households and often centers around key resources like food, water, litter boxes, and even prime toys or napping spots. Resource guarding can be easy to miss because it often doesn't look like aggression, so it's great that you picked up on this. Usually the cat guarding the resource hangs around it (or even by the doorway of the room that has it), follows the other cat to it, stalks the other cat as they use the resource, or chases the other cat after they've used it.

So while it doesn't appear to humans to be aggressive, it's likely your younger cat is policing this important resource and it's making your older cat feel threatened. But it's important to remember that both of your cats are feeling resource insecure and it's likely stressful to both of them. The younger one has an insecurity that is driving it to guard the resource and the older one is now also feeling resource insecure due to the guarding behavior of the younger cat. Keep in mind that your younger cat's insecurity might stem from prior experiences before you got her - so even if the resource is abundant in your house she might still feel the need to guard it based off her history.

Ways to help alleviate this are increasing access to the resource and interrupting the behavior when you see it.

  • When you think of increasing access I would think about this in terms of numbers, but also location as well as entry/exit points. If it's happening around both boxes, adding a third could work. If it's happening around a box in particular consider adding another box to that specific room or repositioning the box so your policing cat is less likely to be able to ambush the other one and the other one has multiple means for escaping. If it has a lid you might consider removing it as it will vastly increase the number of exits your older cat has.
  • Try distracting your younger cat with toys or another form of engagement when you notice your older one going toward or using the box.

You know your cats and their behaviors best so I'd suggest doing some internet searches around 'resource guarding behavior in cats' and see if what's described there matches what you're seeing. There are a fair amount of online resources and tips/tricks for addressing it. This is one specifically about litter boxes.

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  • This makes so much sense, thanks for the thoughtful response!
    – hopejotet
    Oct 26, 2022 at 16:21

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