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We know that our cats can be very particular when it comes to how they decide to spend their time. While some cats prefer to be at the center of all the action, other cats prefer to hang back and just stick to their favorites spots.
But some cats seem to take this to the extreme and spend almost all day in one specific room. Is it normal for cats to do this or should you be worried?
The answer really depends on the body language of the cat. It isn’t a problem for cats to spend all their time in one room if they appear comfortable inside and outside of that space. But if your cat is hiding or appears frightened then there’s a problem.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these scenarios, how we can figure out if it’s normal or not and what to do about it if there’s a problem.
But first, let’s talk about the territorial nature of our cats. This is the first step to understanding why our cats act the way they do!
Our Cats Are Naturally Territorial
While our cats may seem like perfectly domesticated little fuzzballs…they’re still driven by wild instincts. Whether it’s the urge to scratch, climb or hunt prey our cat’s behavior can still be traced back to their ancestors. We can also look at feral felines to get an idea of how our cats act in a wild state.
But no matter where we look, one thing is clear: our cats are territorial creatures.
In the wild, a cat first establishes their home base. This is the area where a cat will sleep, eat, and generally spend most of their time. It’s the area they’ll also bring prey back to (a behavior you’ve certainly seen if your cat ever goes outside). From the home base, cats will establish a range that they consider to be their territory. Researchers at the University of Illinois studied the range of cats and found that “the mean home range for pet cats in the study was less than two hectares (4.9 acres)” while unowned and feral cats had much larger ranges. If there’s an abundance of food available then cats will generally take on a smaller range as the need to travel is less significant. These ranges can also change greatly if cats haven’t been spayed or neutered and are looking for a mate as male cats especially will travel great distances in search of a female!
But what the heck does all this have to do with our cat staying in one room all day?
Understanding our cat’s territory gives us a lot of insight into the nature of our felines friends! If a cat is indoor-only, naturally they’ll see their territory through the lens of the house. So it’s possible that the room they’re spending all their time in is their home base. It’s also likely that your housecat has an abundance of food. Unlike their wild cousins who have to constantly stay on the move for their next meal, our housecats can spend most of their time in their home base.
If the room your cat chooses also has comfortable places to nap and limited disturbances from other pets then that just makes the appeal of the home base even stronger. And if there’s a litterbox, food, or water…then what else could your cat need?
So while our cat’s territorial instincts help us understand why our cats might stay in one room, it doesn’t give us the full picture. We still need to take a closer look at our individual cat’s behavior before we decide if this behavior is normal or not.
When Is It Normal For Cats To Stay In One Room All Day?
To figure this out, you’ll need to read the body language of your cat while they’re in the room and how they act when they leave the room.
But on a more serious note, most cats aren’t going to give you signals that are quite that clear. Instead, feline body language can sometimes be pretty subtle. Dr. Sophia Yin has a great illustrated guide to reading anxiety in feline body language that you can check out here. It’s a great resource that I really think every cat parent should check out.
If your cat isn’t showing any signs of anxiety then it’s more likely that the room is simply their home base and they’re perfectly content to stay there all day.
However, there’s one more important thing to consider.
How Does Your Cat Act When They Leave The Room?
It’s one thing for your cat to be cool, calm, and collected when they’re in the safety of their home base. But how do they react when they leave the room?
If your cat takes on anxious body language when they leave the room then it’s there’s likely a problem. On the other side of things, if your cat leaves the room and proudly struts around the house to their food bowl or litter box with a tall tail and upright postures then you’re probably in the clear. In that case, it’s reasonable to assume that your cat simply prefers the comfort and safety of their home base room.
When Is It NOT Normal For Cats To Stay In One Room All Day?
While sometimes it’s obvious when there’s a problem, other times it can be tricky to figure out many cats will give subtle cues. Let’s break down somethings to look for in your cat’s behavior.
Is Your Cat Hiding or Showing Anxious Body Language?
This one is the most obvious. If your cat is spending all day in a specific room and showing anxious body language or even hiding in that room then there’s something outside that room that’s stressing them out. Pay close attention to how your cat reacts to noises outside the room as these can give you a great idea of what may be stressing your cat out.
For example, you may notice that your cat suddenly perks up, shifts their ears, and overall takes on tense postures when they hear the dog come up the stairs towards the room. Or maybe every time the vacuum is turned on or a certain family member comes home.
While these might seem like obvious cues, you can spend hours in the room with your cat and never actually see them. That’s why taking the time to observe your cat is so important.
Another big body language cue is if your cat shows a great deal of anxiety whenever they leave the room. That’s a clear sign that’s somethings up and your cat’s decision to spend all their time in a single room isn’t completely normal.
When Does Your Cat Leave The Room?
Another big sign is when your cat leaves the room- not only the specific time of day but also what’s going on in the house when your cat decides to dip out. For example, if you’ve got a young child and every time they leave for school in the morning your cat suddenly comes out for a bite to eat and a trip to the litterbox then the connection is pretty clear and your cat is likely stressed by the child.
However, it’s not always this obvious or you might not be around to even see it happen. Try to mix up your routine and spend some extra time at home so you can see how your cat reacts to different changes. If you want to get really high-tech with it, you can actually pick up a budget-friendly camera on Amazon to see what your cat is up to when you’re not home. This can be a great option because it really helps you see exactly what’s going on without any interference. This is the pet camera I recommend and you can check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here. What you’re looking for is the timing of when your cat is leaving the room and where they’re going.
Did Something Change Recently?
Big changes in the house can cause a variety of behavior changes- including deciding to stay secluded in a single room. The most obvious ones are changes like new pets, new babies, new people in the house, or even a move. But there can also be more subtle cues and some of them could even be good things. Maybe you moved the food bowl to a new room or added a more comfortable place to perch. In other words, change doesn’t always have to be bad and there could be something that’s made the home base room even more appealing.
Look for Conflicts With Other Pets
While it’s generally obvious if our pets are fighting, cats may decide to spend all day in one room just based on one incident. This is especially common when there are multiple cats in a home. Remember, our cats are territorial creatures and with multiple felines the lines of territory can become very complicated. The cat that’s hanging out in one room could be avoiding an additional confrontation that erupted when borders were crossed.
Again, your major clues are going to be the timing of when your cat leaves the room and how they react to noises from the outside. If the other pet in the house never goes into the room or doesn’t even have access then that’s also a good clue.
What To Do If Your Cat Spends All Day In One Room?
First, figure out if there’s actually a problem. If your cat shows no signs of stress then it may not be an issue that they’ve decided to hang out in one room all day. So if your cat seems calm in the room, doesn’t react strongly to noises from outside the room, and comfortably exits the room at different times then there’s probably not much of an issue.
That’s just how your cat has decided to interact with the world around them. You can try adding beds or comfortable cat trees to areas outside of the room to entice your feline but I’d honestly just take the opposite approach and turn your cat’s home base into the ultimate cat cave by adding more comfortable spots to their favorite room!
But if you’re seeing some concerning signs like avoiding pets or only leaving at certain times there are a few things to consider.
Solve the Problem
The first thing to do is solve the problem that’s stressing out our cats. Whether that’s another pet, a family member, or a rogue Roomba that’s scaring our cat it’s important to figure out the problem and fix that first.
This isn’t always that easy but it is possible. Unfortunately, the range of possible stressors is too wide to cover in this article but I hope I’ve given you some good ideas. If you’re still not sure, feel free to reach out and I can try to help.
Don’t Push Your Cat Past Their Boundaries
Assuming your cat has free access in and out of the room, it’s important to remember that your cat is making a choice to stay in that room. It’s important to respect that and not further stress out your cat. So while it could be tempting to try and resolve a pet conflict by simply bringing the other pet into the room that’s not always such a good idea. You’d be breaking the critical rules of territory for your cat and effectively leaving them with no home base.
Focus on Positive Associations and Positive Reinforcement
Instead of pushing, we want to encourage our cats to exit the room on their own. While every situation will be a little different, the first thing we want to do is make sure our cats feel like they have a safe piece of territory outside of their preferred room. One of the best ways to do that is with a cat tree or other dedicated piece of furniture and you can read all my reviews of just about every type of cat tree you can think of here.
But you don’t have to go out and buy a cat tree today! An open cat carrier or any kind of elevated or covered spot can work. What we don’t want to do is push our cat out to a completely open and exposed area and expect them to find that comfortable!
Once we’ve established a safe place for our cat outside the room, we can use food and treats to encourage them to exit. It’s important to be patient and not expect our cat to run out immediately. Over time, cats will learn that leaving the room leads to tasty treats and this will build up positive associations. Eventually, they’ll decide that maybe the outside world isn’t so stressful after all!
It’s not entirely unusual for cats to spend most of the day in one room- especially if there are other pets and people that might make their home base feel more comfortable. Our cats are also naturally territorial creatures so it should be no surprise that they decide to call one area their home. When you consider that the modern housecats don’t have the same need to roam the world around them in search of food it seems even more unsurprising that some cats might prefer to stick to one room.
Still, while it can be normal it isn’t always, and if a cat seems stressed, anxious, or scared inside or outside the room there’s likely a problem. Figuring out what it could be can be tricky but we owe it to our cats to make sure they’re safe and comfortable in our homes!