This is MY space!

This picture was taken on the second day we had the kittens (fall of 2009). Grace and Dodger’s relationship still has many moments of jealousy and bossiness (from both sides!).

One of the things I like the most about observing Grace is how literal her communication is. The same is true with our cats. Their body language tells it all. If we could observe human interactions with that level of objectivity and detachment, I think we’d often behave differently.

There are two instances that illustrate this perfectly. One happens frequently in our house, the second happened for the first time (that I was aware of) the other morning.

In our living room, we allow Grace on the furniture, but she often chooses her own bed in the evening. Once the sun goes down, she’s ready for bed. If Dodger walks by the edge of the sofa and lingers even for a second to attract my husband’s attention for a quick head rub, Grace leaps out of a deep sleep, prances over and positions herself between Dodger and Pete. She then nudges Dodger on his way, as if to say: “This is MY space. Get out!” And Dodger does. We’ve seen this scene play out on many occasions, so I was amused to witness another side of it the other morning.

I was in the basement plodding along on the elliptical machine. Oliver and Dodger keep me company, skipping around the room, chasing numerous cat toys in and around all the kinds of obstacles you might expect in a somewhat cluttered basement. Dodger had paused for a few bites of his breakfast and Grace sauntered into the room, just to say hello. Dodger’s next move was so obvious – so clear – he jumped down and raced to Grace, physically bumping into her and cutting off her route. With each turn Grace took to avoid Dodger, he continued to place himself in front of her, changing her direction, edging her out of the room. He was saying: “This is MY space. Get out!”

My first reaction was to chuckle. New room, new rules. Dodger felt he could be the one in authority in the basement. Then I thought, how interesting, since there are many times when I see Dodger respect Grace’s space. Never have I seen either cat in Grace’s bed, for example. My guess is that Grace’s actions are motivated by jealousy; Dodger’s ego and opportunity to be in charge drove him to be territorial.

Here is one of those rare moments when they prove they can co-exist in the same space, though clearly being asleep makes it more enjoyable.

And so it is with organizations. We call it working in silos when individuals or departments insist on working in isolation, preventing collaboration and integration of ideas and efficiencies. Sometimes this is done intentionally, but often I think it happens unintentionally, without being aware that we’re yelling out: “This is MY space. Get out!”

If we could recognize when we’re being defensive, it would be easy to intellectually see that we’re creating walls instead of building bridges. There is plenty of space and ample love for three animals in the same room at the same time. And I’m sure there is opportunity for us to be more collaborative in the workplace.

Smart Tips Served Straight to Your Inbox

Want to build healthy, productive workplace relationships??? Join our community of Graceful Leaders/Managers and get access to tips, insights, and resources right in your inbox.

BONUS: Sign up now and receive a FREE animal-inspired gift: “3 Management Tips from Dog!"

Share with a friend using one of the buttons below. Then sign up so you can receive stories, tips, and guidance to help you develop healthy workplace relationships in your organization!


  1. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide on June 3, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Great pictures! My dogs are the same way. Every time I think the younger one is trying to be Alpha, the oldest one chases him away from the food dish. Well it’s never that blatant or we’d intervene. It’s more like one goes in the other slinks out.

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on June 3, 2011 at 10:49 am

      I think it’s so fun to watch them work out their relationships. Often, it seems they are smarter than we are!

  2. spiderpaw on June 5, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    You are so right Robin. In our house, below Sheila and me Sia is the top animal period. She breaks up fights, makes sure certain cats don’t go into certain rooms, herds when she needs to, etc. But if she walks by a cat and sees that she might invades it’s space, she will walk the other way.

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on June 6, 2011 at 7:30 am

      Soooo interesting, Lionel! It’s fascinating to me the language that they all know and understand and live by. Four-legged animals seem to be great at communicating seamlessly and without any confusion. Thanks for stopping by!

Leave a Comment