Living with more than one cat

Managing a household with more than one cat can sometimes be tricky.  Success will depend not only on your actions, but also on the individual personalities of your felines.

Most cats are actually quite social, however they choose their preferred friends just like humans, which is not easy to influence. Considering we choose the cats that live together, there is no guarantee they will be friends.

Conflict between cats

Conflict is more common between cats who:

  • co-habit smaller spaces, such as an apartment with no outdoor access
  • have no prior history
  • are getting older
  • were raised in an antisocial early environment

Don’t expect a 12-year-old cat to be welcoming a 2-month-old kitten into the home. The 12-year-old wants to settle into her senior years in comfort, not entertain a bouncy child wanting constant attention. She deserves the respect of quiet and comfort as much as the kitten deserves lots of play time from the human family.

A better combination is siblings that were friendly towards each other when young and that have a reasonably sized space to share. And, of course, all cats in a multi-cat household should be desexed for maximal success.

How to set up your home with more
than one cat

Separate resources

It is important that each cat in the household can have its own private resources with no harassment by another cat. Resources include: separate sleeping areas, vantage points/high places, food stations, water access, entry/exit points and toilet facilities. Each resource needs to have at least two ways to access it, so that no cat can get blocked in using it.

To minimise conflict, set up several areas that your cats can scratch and be able to get up high on to 'keep watch'.

As litter box protocol is so important for cats to feel secure, it is recommended to have two litter trays available for each cat. Covered tray are not recommended in multi-cat households, as a vulnerable cat may feel trapped in the litter tray. As usual, trays should be in quiet, secure areas away from doors and windows.

Food and water access should be placed in separate places, as cats prefer to eat away from water. Each cat needs several food and water areas so they can choose where to go and to minimise interference by another cat.

If there is any insecurity about food or water, some cats will eat lots in one go, so it doesn’t have to go back to the food source and risk conflict. It is therefore useful to place measured amounts of dry food in various bowls around the home. The same cat may avoid drinking altogether, easy and multiple water access is essential.

Time sharing play areas

In some households, time sharing is a useful part of cats sharing a space, especially with cats that are new to each other or have shown hostility. Each cat has exclusive access to common areas for a designated time. After this, it is returned to its own space and another cat has access to the same area. This system is not suitable for all households.

All cats like to have some quiet time. For young cats, this may be sprawling out on the couch with their humans. However, it is common for felines to seek out a dark, warm and quiet cupboard or drawer for rest.

So that appropriate places are used for this, create numerous private hidey-holes for each of your felines to retreat to. Keep the blankets in these areas the same for as long as possible, to retain their own scent.

Feline pheromones

A wonderful help in managing the multi-cat household is the use of Feliway. This is a synthetic version of the feline facial pheromone – a chemical message produced by cats and rubbed on items (including humans) around the home. This signals security and safety to cats and is used as a calming influence for cats. We recommend having several plug-in diffusers around the home for a constant calming message to all the cats. It won’t solve every stressful issue, but will go a long way to a peaceful home.

Signs of stress in a cat

  • Withdrawing from regular activities
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Over grooming
  • Urine spraying
  • Scratch marking more than usual

If you see any of these signs, please contact us or your local vet clinic to exclude a medical cause or for further help with alleviating stress for your cat.

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