Living in a multicat household has many advantages. Cats learn from each other, play together, form bonds that can become incredibly close and they fill our hearts with so much love and joy. Living in a multicat household is not without challenges though. Introducing a new cat requires patience and lots of finesse. Some cats take a long time to accept each other and some cats never seem to be able to create peaceful co-existence. There are things you can do to help your cats work out their differences or even prevent squabbles from occurring in the first place. Note: behavior changes in a cat such as aggression, hiding, change in appetite, etc., can have an underlying medical cause so be sure cats have been checked by the veterinarian before assuming a problem is strictly behavioral.
1. Learn the Social Groups Within Your Multicat Home
Depending upon how many cats live in your home, there could be more than one social set. Take time to really look at who hangs out with whom most of the time or whether specific cats tend to stay in one area of your home. When altercations happen, are they with the same cats each time? It may be a cat is not happy that another cat who really isn’t part of his group is trying to access the litter box or get to the feeding station.
2. Create Easy Access to Resources
Two common mistakes I see many cat parents make is that they create a single feeding station for their multiple cats and they also don’t provide the right litter box set-up to ensure safety. When it comes to the feeding station, people may assume that because the cats are willing to eat close together they must be getting along. The problem is, the cats may actually be very stressed about having to eat alongside each other but because that’s the only location for the food, they’re forced to be in close proximity. In this situation you may also see one cat consistently bully one or more cats away from the food bowl as well. The lower-ranking cats may soon learn to not approach the bowl until the coast is clear. What a cat guardian may view as the cats being social may actually be a situation creating ongoing stress.
The Feeding Station
Don’t assume your cats are getting along because they all come into the kitchen at mealtime. Your cats may not feel comfortable eating out of the same bowl or even eating right next to each other. Create a more peaceful mealtime environment through some separation. If there’s more than one social group in your home, then set up feeding stations so a cat from one group isn’t forced to come into the other group’s territory to eat. Even if you have just two cats, it may be stressful to be side-by-side during dinner. Depending upon the number of cats you have and the level of tension (if any) between them, you may have to set up multiple feeding stations in various locations. For some cats, eating in the same room but just not right next to each other may be enough, but for other cats, they may need to be in separate rooms that are within their own personal territory.
Pay attention to the particular spots you locate the feeding station as well. Even if you place food and water bowls in multiple locations, be sure to put them where they provide maximum security. Give the cats good visual ability when they eat. A cat may want to be able to see if anyone is approaching while he munches on his meal. You may find a timid cat may prefer being totally hidden while eating or wants to be in an elevated location so he has maximum visual ability and less chance of being ambushed from behind. There’s no rule that states all food bowls must be on the floor in the kitchen. Place them where they work best for your cats.
The Litter Box
As for the litter box, I find some cat parents miss the mark in terms of number and also placement. You should have more litter boxes than you have cats. Usually one extra box is adequate. Boxes should be placed around the home so cats don’t have to cross another cat’s area when the need to eliminate arises. Don’t make the mistake of having the right number of litter boxes but then placing them all in one room. I see this often when I do in-home consultations and the human family members don’t realize that arrangement may be the very reason one or more of the cats eliminate outside of the box. Pay attention to how the social groups are divided up and where each cat tends to spend the most time. It may not be convenient for you to have litter boxes in different areas of the home but it’ll make a huge difference in your cats’ lives and could very well prevent you from having to clean urine from carpets.