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When you have a multicat household, everyone may get along famously or you may have some issues ranging from mild, occasional squabbles to full-time turf wars. Since cats are territorial, you can help ease much of the multicat stress by making sure there are adequate resources available for everyone.
Resources in a Multicat Home
By resources, I’m referring to food, water, litter box, resting areas, toys and scratching locations. These are all the things your cat needs but depending upon the dynamics in your multicat home, one or more of the cats may guard the route to the food bowl or litter box or perhaps a cat has claimed the one scratching post. You may have a situation where all the cats happily share the scratching post or the cat tree but there is major intimidation happening at the feeding station. If you create enough for everyone, you’ll go a long way in keeping the peace.
Location of a Cat’s Resources
It’s not just about having six litter boxes for six cats – it’s about where the resources are located. Provide resources in each cat’s preferred location so that a more timid cat doesn’t have to cross the path of a higher ranking or more intimidating companion cat.
It’s very common for me to go to a client’s home and see lots of food bowls or litter boxes but they’re all lined up next to each other. If a cat is afraid to walk past another cat then having all the food bowls lined up in one room does no good. It just reinforces the intimidation success on the intimidator’s part and it reinforces the stress on the victim’s part. When it comes to location of litter boxes, if you’ve lined them all up in one area it becomes a ticking time bomb for a litter box aversion problem. Eventually, the intimidated cat may start holding her urine as long as she can to avoid going to the box and that may lead to a urinary tract problem or she’ll find a safer place behind your sofa, on the bed or under the dining room table.
If you provide resources in each cat’s area, you give them several less reasons to squabble or confront each other and that’s a big step toward having a happy multicat household.
Need More Information?
Multicat households face unique challenges that single cat households don’t. For more specific information and step-by-step techniques for setting up a happy multicat home or for finding solutions to problems, refer to the book Cat vs. Cat. This book by Pam Johnson-Bennett was the first of its kind in addressing the unique challenges of multiple cat households.
We’re sorry but Pam is unable to respond to comments. If you have questions about cat behavior you can find many answers in the books by Pam Johnson-Bennett. If your cat is displaying a change in behavior, contact your veterinarian because there may be an underlying medical cause. This article is not intended to be a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care.