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 there might need to be some tweaking done to the current environment. If each cat feels there are enough safe 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:
Proper Introduction of Cats
If you’re bring home 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. It’s worth the time to go slowly and make the experience a positive one in order to set everyone up to succeed. Remember, the newcomer will be faced with not only unfamiliar cats, but also a totally unfamiliar environment. The resident cat will be facing the fact that there’s a feline intruder in the home and it could mean a threat to his security. Proper introductions can make all the difference in the success of this experience.
Cat Feeding Stations
Don’t ask cats to share one community food bowl because 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 each cat has an assigned spot. 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. The feeding station should inspire security and safety.
There should be more litter boxes than there are cats in the 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 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 for Cats
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.
Some cats may like to remain somewhat hidden when entering a shared territory area. In that case, place cat tunnels around so a kitty can move through a room and feel invisible.
Feline-Friendly Vertical Territory
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. A cat tree may initially seem like an expensive investment but it will be a valuable and well-used piece of real estate inside your home. If may the most stress-free way for a couple of cats to look out of the same window. It can also be a way that a higher-ranking displays status without having to resort to aggression. When shopping for a cat tree, choose one with large perches so cats feel comfortable without having legs hanging off the end. I recommend U-shaped perches so a cat can feel his back up against something which can increase his sense of security.
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 Between the Cats
It’s up to you to watch the body language of your cats and monitor whether there is tension brewing. Use appropriate behavior techniques to diffuse tension and prevent the situation from escalating into something hostile. Keep your cats engaged in activities that distract them from picking on each other. Use environmental enrichment to keep cats happy and satisfied. Set up puzzle feeders, rotate toys and place them in interesting locations, engage in twice-daily interactive play sessions and work on any issues before they become big problems.
Need More Information?
You can find the latest cat behavior information in Pam’s latest release, CatWise.