How to Handle A Multi-Cat Household
Published on May 3, 2019 by arothstein
Cats didn’t traditionally live in socially structured groups. However, since they’ve become domesticated, they’ve been able to adapt to social structures. Multi-cat households will either avoid each other or learn to get along harmoniously. Cats want to have a spot in the home they claim as theirs.
Although it’s not necessary to live in a large house when you have a multi-cat household, it’s essential for each cat to have a place of its own. This can avoid conflicts among your feline friends, especially in close quarters.
Cats that usually get along the best are siblings that were brought up together. However, there could be occasional conflicts if one cat is shy and another more confident. As kittens mature into adult cats, they’ll separate into sub-groups that can live together harmoniously.
An owner of a multi-cat household can establish which of their cats belong to various social groups by observing their behavior. Which cats usually play together or sleep in the same spot? Which cats typically groom each other?
Once you’ve established which cats get along well in your multi-cat household and where there could be problems, a helpful tip is to place food, water, and litter boxes for each group in separate areas of your home. This allows the ability to minimize interaction between cats that may not get along well.
A Tip About Food and Water Bowls
Feeding time in a multi-cat household can lead to competition and jealousy. Measure amounts of dry cat food left out so your cats can choose when they want to eat. Measure out food more frequently if you feed your cats wet food. Cat’s food bowls should be placed in an area where they can watch the activity around them while they eat, especially if a cat from another social group is approaching.
Large, stainless steel or ceramic bowls are best for drinking water. Cats typically prefer to drink water away from their food bowl. One reason to place the water bowl in a separate spot away from cat food is that if another of your cats approaches, the one drinking may feel as if it’s being challenged.
Multiple Litter Boxes
A lot of cats prefer to eliminate outdoors in places away from hunting and feeding areas. However, some cats feel comfortable using litter boxes indoors. For cats to feel comfortable using their litter box, they need them placed, so they feel secure. If a cat doesn’t feel comfortable using its litter box, your cat could experience problems from stress which may include:
- Using inappropriate areas in your household
- Bladder of bowel disease
- Urinary retention
An important tip in a multi-cat household is to use open litter boxes because covered boxes may make a cat feel trapped or vulnerable to attack from other cats.
Litter Box Considerations
- Most cats prefer fine litter with a consistency similar to sand. Litter that clumps together is easier to clean up.
- Cats prefer open litter boxes so they can view their surroundings.
- An important tip to make sure your cats use their litter boxes is to place them away from high-traffic areas of your home. Cats may get distracted when their litter boxes are placed near external doorways, appliances that make a lot of noise, cat doors, and full-length windows.
Private Cat Areas to Rest and Relax
All cats need a place that belongs to only them. To feel safe, cats like places that are dark and warm. Allow your cats to have spaces that require a minimum of cleaning, so they aren’t disrupted. When they go to their private area, respect their privacy as you would with any family member.
Among the places in a multi-cat household, cats love to claim as their private spaces. Cardboard cartons that are deep enough to hide in, under a bed or sofa, or inside a wardrobe where they can nap peacefully.
Cats and Sleeping Areas
All cats need a warm place to rest where they won’t be disturbed by other cats or people in your multi-cat household. Beds that are raised off the floor, in a warm room away from drafty spots and heated pads should be a necessity for all your family cats.
Some owners don’t object to their cats sleeping on their bed. The cat parent’s bed represents a place of security for cats since it has their scent on it. If there may be conflicts among your cats sleeping in your room, you may consider heated beds or pads in other locations in your home to discourage middle-of-the-night conflicts.
Toys and Areas for Play
Playtime is an essential activity for a cat. A tip to consider is that most cats that are timid won’t play in front of another more assertive cat. Play fighting could escalate into something in which one or more of your cats could be injured.
Encourage that shy kitty to be more confident by playing alone with that cat and providing, fun, interactive toys. A good rule to follow is to provide high cat perches for times when things get too intense.
Providing Each Cat with Equal Attention
All the cats in a multi-cat household should receive equal love and attention from their owners. Cats have various ways of getting their owner’s attention including meowing, especially late at night and pawing at their owner. Some cats will knock things over because they’re curious. However, knocking objects down could be to get attention.
Introducing New Cats
When you bring a new cat into your multi-cat household, encourage your cats to play together by bringing out a few toys and getting them to interact. If they aren’t interested in playing together, give each of them some special playtime alone.
Cats usually acclimate to a stranger in their midst before too long. It’s essential for your cats not to feel they’re being replaced when you create a multi-cat household.
Common Issues and Disagreements Between Cats
Common problems among multi-cat households can arise because one cat feels threatened by another more assertive cat. There may be problems if one cat is food aggressive and another approaches while they are eating.
In re-directed conflicts, a timid cat may back away from the most assertive cat in your home but try to be threatening to another cat with even less confidence. In defensive situations, a cat that feels threatened may put as much distance between itself and other family cats as possible.
In an offensive situation, the cat that’s the most assertive and confident will move in on the other cats in the family and attempt to control the situation. Ways to reduce the conflicts among your cats is to keep their nails trimmed short, so they can’t injure one another.
Separate living areas in your home may be necessary for cats that habitually have conflicts. Some veterinarians prescribe medications that can modify the behavior of the offending cat. Spaying or neutering your cats can help to prevent disputes from occurring, and in worst case scenarios, you may get the advice of an animal behaviorist who can assist you with behavior modification.
Jealousy Among Family Cats
Animal behaviorists have conflicting views about whether cats feel jealousy the way humans do. What many believe is that when a new cat is brought into your household, your cat may feel like it must compete with the newcomer. Jealousy may manifest by your cat having accidents instead of using the litter box, growling or hissing at the new cat, or getting pushy about extra attention from their owner.
How to Stop Cat Jealousy
Ways to stop jealousy in a multi-cat household include petting and rewarding your cats for good behavior. When you first come home, don’t pay attention to them; they won’t feel like they must compete for your attention.
Feed your cats in separate areas to prevent food aggression. Don’t give one cat more attention than the other. Keep a few toys out for them to play with but put the food-based toys away until they get used to each other.
Parent and Kitten Relationships
The bond between male and female cats that are having a litter isn’t strong, and the female raises the kittens. The mother stays with her newborn kittens for between 24 and 48 hours to encourage them to nurse. At about five weeks of age, the mother cat discourages kittens from nursing since they’re ready for solid food.
Socializing kittens at an early age is essential, so they don’t fear humans. At about two weeks, kittens should start interacting with humans and should be ready for weaning at about eight weeks of age.
Managing A Litter of Kittens
For the first two weeks of their lives, kittens will sleep most of the time. They get their nourishment from their mother. If the mother isn’t able to nurse the kittens, bottle feeding may be necessary. The kitten’s eyes open at between seven and ten days old.
It’s essential for your kittens to have proper nutrition during their first weeks. They should start to be weaned and begin to eat solid food between three and four weeks and should have set feeding times.
Kittens and Litter Boxes
Kittens can be trained to use a litter box at about three weeks. Stand them in the litter box and use a front paw to scratch at the litter. Massage the genital area with a wipe or cotton ball, and they’ll usually get the idea. It may take a few times for some kittens.
By following these tips for multi-cat households, you and your cats will live a happy and peaceful life together.
Want to Learn More?
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