The key to keeping peace in a multicat household is to make sure there are enough resources and space for everyone. That doesn’t mean you have to move out of your current home and into a mansion, but it does mean that there might need to be some tweaking done to the environmental set-up. If each cat feels they have choices in terms of where to eat, sleep, eliminate and play, life will be much happier. If they must all adhere to only one option, then that increases the chances of territorial disputes and also increases the stress level. Here are some quick reminders:
If you’re introducing a new cat to your resident cat(s), make sure you start off on the right foot by doing a proper introduction. If you try to just put the cats in together to “work it out” you will set them up for failure. The right introduction involves giving them a reason to like each other.
Don’t ask cats to share one community food bowl. That can become an invitation to intimidation if one cat bullies another in an attempt to be the first one (or only one) at the dinner plate. In many cases, the solution may just involve providing more than one bowl in the feeding area so if one cat is nosed out of a bowl he can move to another. In other cases though, there may need to be additional feeding stations set up in other rooms. A cat who tries to nose others out of the food bowl can’t be in more than one place at one time.
There should be the same number of litter boxes as there are cats in a household. In addition to having an adequate number of boxes, place them in locations throughout the house and not in one room. If one cat feels nervous about passing through another cat’s area in order to eliminate, he may decide that it’s just too stressful and could end up either eliminating on the carpet or retaining his urine until the last possible second. Either of those options aren’t good ideas. Reduce stress by making sure boxes are located in areas where each cat feels most comfortable.
Provide multiple scratching posts in the home. Marking is one of the functions of scratching and some cats may not want to share a scratching post. You may also notice that each cat has a particular preference when it comes to where, when or how they scratch. One cat may prefer horizontal scratching, one might do vertical scratching, another may like to scratch just after waking from a nap, etc. Place scratching posts in locations where the cats like to scratch and provide the type of post that will accommodate scratching preferences.
Hideaways and Beds
There might be one chair in your home that has become the favorite among the cats and there may be some bickering over who gets to sleep in it. Provide other cozy napping options to reduce disputes. Place A-frame beds, or donut beds on shelves or tucked away in corners for the cats who prefer to remain hidden while napping. Install padded window perches for the cats who like to nap in a sunny window. Observe your cats’ sleeping habits and location preferences so you can provide comfortable options for each one.
You can greatly increase your cats’ territory just by increasing the vertical space in your home. Cat trees, cat shelves or window perches are easy and effective ways to help cats feel as if they have more physical territory than they actually do.
Multi-perched cat trees allow more than one cat to remain in close proximity to one another while still maintaining some degree of a pecking order.
Engage your cats in interactive playtime but don’t ask them to all compete for one toy or else there’s a strong probability that the game will turn from fun to intimidation. Instead, schedule individual interactive playtime with each cat each day. If you have a couple of cats who are very bonded and do play cooperatively without intimidation, then you can have them share the interactive toy as long as you’re careful to make sure each cat gets their turn.
Monitor the Relationships
It’s up to you to watch the body language of your cats and monitor whether there is tension brewing. Use appropriate behavior modification techniques to diffuse tension and prevent the situation from escalating into something hostile.
Need More Information?
For specific step-by-step information on keeping peace in a multicat household, refer to the book Cat vs. Cat. This ground-breaking book addresses the unique challenges that families with more than one cat face.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.