How are your cats getting along? Do they communicate well in most cases? Are there occasional fights or disagreements that break out? If so, you are among the majority of cat parents because this is what we see in most multi cat households. Do you want to take a leap ahead and make your cats best buddies? Here are 17 tips to improve harmony in homes with multiple cats.
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How many cats is too many?
A multi cat household is very common amongst our patients. The reasons are varied but the most common one is that cats are social animals. With our busy lives, having more than one cat helps them not be so bored and lonely when we are out of the house. We are often asked if getting a second cat is a good idea. The cat lover in me always wants to say “Yes!” but I always ask many questions first. If their resident cat or cats are considered shyer cats, there may be some work needed when introducing a new kitten. Do they have other pets in the house? Are they able to financially support their many pets? As a loving cat owner myself, I want only the best for all four legged fur babies. So can one have too many cats? Maybe. But as long as they are happy and healthy, why not add one more?
17 Tips for owners of multiple cats
- Add vertical territory. Climbing opportunities are very important in a single cat house, but they become extremely, extremely important in a multiple cat household. To do this, add a cat tree, perches, and shelves. Clear furniture tops and let your cats be cats. Make sure there are possibilities for the cats to climb in almost every room of your house and that you have perches of different heights available. This will let your cats establish their relationship as social animals, and choose when they want to interact with one another and when they want to be left alone.
- Try to limit dead ends. By dead end, we mean places where one cat can approach another and block their escape path. In nature, a cat would do anything to avoid conflict. Fighting is a last resort for a cat, and it is done only when other options such as retreating, are not available. If your cats are getting into minor fights occasionally, one of reasons is that your cats are not able to escape one another. Common dead ends in a household are narrow hallways and cat trees that lead to nowhere. Add more cat trees and shelves on your walls so your cats have a larger choice of paths.
- Play with your cats. Play with them as often as you can. Use different toys and playing methods. Alter activity and length of playing, use interactive toys that you control and also let your cats engage with solo play toys. Play with your cats together or have individual play sessions with a each cat behind closed doors. The best time for play is just before meal feeding as this simulates hunting for prey. Playing will let your cats release their energy, relieve tension, improve social skills, build confidence in shy cats, reduce aggression in dominant cats and much more.
- Provide several litter boxes. Litter boxes are commonly guarded by dominant cats and, if a submissive cat wants to the litter box, it won’t want to be ambushed by other cats. You should have at least the same amount of litter boxes in your house as you have cats. Having even more is preferred. They must be set up throughout the house evenly. Put them in the most crowded areas and have some in quiet locations. Always make sure there is enough kitty litter in the box. If any elimination outside of the litter box occurs, take it very seriously and find out why it happened.
- Provide as many scratching posts as you can. Scratching serves many purposes. It is not only about getting rid of dead nails, but scratching also lets a cat mark its territory as they have scent glands in their paws. The latter means that your cat needs to scratch things in certain locations, not only in one corner. Remember, scratching is a form of communication between your cats. This will help them understand one another better and get along better. Add scratching posts, pads and cat trees in as many locations as you can. Two to three in each room will be enough if they are placed in appropriate locations. The best practice is to place scratching posts near furniture your cats are already scratching on. You can find more about correct scratching post placement here.
- Provide enough other resources. As with litter boxes and scratching locations above, it’s also very important to provide enough napping locations, feeding stations (if you free feed your cats), water bowls, toys and other objects. The more accessible these are to your cats, the less tension it creates. It’ll be easier for your cats to choose when to interact and when to avoid one another.
- Learn your cats body language. This will let you know when your cats are stressed and when they are relaxed. This will help you to stop possible aggression between your cats even before any fur flies. You can find about signs of aggression in cats here.
- Intercept possible aggression outbreaks in advance. Can you recognize the signs that one of your cats is going to attack or ambush another one? It is best if you are able to interfere before anything occurs. You can redirect the attention of an attacking cat to a toy, or you can move yourself in between the cats without making any fuss about it. Just pretend you intended to walk there. You can make a short, sudden noise to startle your cats and then take advantage of this moment to change the scenario. You can also pick up the offensive cat and without saying a word, remove it from the room.
- Don’t let cats sort it out themselves. If your cats get into a fight, you have to interrupt it. Leaving fighting cats may lead to serious injuries and further aggression. How do you stop a cat fight? You can toss an object in between them, startle them with a sudden noise, squirt water or if you are brave enough, you can physically remove the more offensive cat by picking them up and taking him away. After that, leave both cats separated for some time. You can also consider a complete reintroduction for both animals.
- Respect your cats different temperaments. The fact that one of your cats may not be as active as others does not mean you must change it. Just like people cats also have different temperaments. Of course, you can build confidence in shy cats and you can reduce aggressiveness in dominant ones. If your cat is reluctant to communicate, explore or take part in social life, never push them. Encourage yes. Push, no.
- Spay and neuter your cats. Single cat household or not, there are always many good reasons to spay a cat. But when many cats live under the same roof, spaying and neutering helps to minimize urine spraying and aggression between individuals.
- Take your cats to the vet regularly. Even if everything seems okay with your cats, you should bring them to a veterinarian for checkups at least annually. It will stop any unnoticed problem before it grows big, and it will help to keep up with vaccinations. Having healthy cats is a key to having harmony in your home. Pain, discomfort, stress, fear and mood changes due to a health problem are common causes of aggression in cats. Find here how to make vet visits less of a pain for your cats.
- Do not punish your cats for misbehaving. There may be several reasons why punishing a cat may backfire. A cat who is just scolded by their owner may become a target for bullying by other cats. A cat who is punished may redirect their aggression towards other cats. Scolding and yelling creates stress in cats . In fact, it can cause stress in every cat in your household. Last but not least, punishment does not work very well in solving behavior problems. We feel that punishment is cruel.
- Feed your cats in meals. There are several drawbacks to leaving a cat’s food available at all times. If you have multiple cats under your roof, it gives them unnecessary competition for cat food. It also makes it impossible to determine how much each cat eats and when one cat’s food consumption habits may suddenly change. For example, how do you figure out why you have an overweight cat and an underweight cat?
- Feed your cats from separate bowls. While you might think that sharing makes your cats best buddies, feeding from separate bowls can work magic to their relationship. Food is the most important resource for cats. In a multi cat households, problems arise when cats are forced to share it and protect it from one another. By adding more bowls, or even feeding your cats in separate rooms, you will reduce their stress.
- Mix your cats scents. Each cat in feral and natural colonies not only have their own individual smell, but together they also share a common group scent. It distinguishes the colony from others, and helps cats to identify whether an individual belongs to the particular group. Mixing scents is easy. Brush your cats one after another with the same brush. You don’t need to do it for a long time, just a few minutes each focusing on cheeks, chin, and forehead. This is because that’s where their pheromone-producing scent glands are located. Regular petting works great too. If you keep up this habit, your cats will pick it up and start to groom one another. This is something only cats that share mutual trust do.
- Don’t rush through adding new cats. If you have more than one cat, you are very likely to add a new one sooner or later. But don’t rush the introduction no matter how much you want them to greet each other sooner. If cats are introduced properly, they won’t associate one another with negative experiences and will be less likely to act aggressively. Introduction is best done by keeping your cats separate at first, then make short introductions from a distance. Then, gradually make them longer and let the cats get closer. You can find more information about introducing cats here.
Multiple Cats Summary
When you put everything from the above together, you will discover our final tip. Limit possible causes of stress to your cat. Stress is a common cause of aggression spurts in all animals, including humans. You might have experienced it yourself, as you become grumpy to your close ones when dealing with stress. Same goes for your cats.
Common causes of stress in cats are new experiences, changes in environment or routine, owners stress, fear of objects, noises and other pets. You can read more about stress in cats here. If you are able to limit your cats stress in your household, you are one step closer to creating a happy multi cat household.
You now have 17 tips to have multiple cats live happily together in your home. By following these tips, your cats will have less stress and more fun. This will go a long way towards a happy life for you and your cats. And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want.