How to Thrive in a Multi-Cat Household
Cats are like potato chips: you can’t just have one. Contrary to what many people think, cats are social animals and most will really enjoy the company of another cat.
If you pay attention to the behavior of outdoor cats, you’ll find that they tend to live in groups called colonies. However, cats are unique in that they enjoy being around members of their own species, but prefer to do their hunting alone. This works out well outdoors, where unlimited space and resources exist. However, it can cause some tension in an indoor setting where space and resources are limited.
Getting Along in a Multi-Cat Household
If you have a household with multiple cats and are struggling with helping them all to get along, there are a few things to remember:
- If you are adding a new cat to your household, take the time to do it slowly and correctly. Cats should never be left to their own devices or allowed to just “work it out” amongst themselves. This is very stressful both for your existing cat and your new cat. Imagine being randomly assigned a new roommate who you’ve never met before. He moves in unexpectedly and wants to share your bathroom and food immediately. Wouldn’t you want to take some time to get to know him first and have your own space?
- On the same note, just like you probably like to have your own stuff, so does your cat. The majority of fighting in multi-cat households is due to a lack of resources, not a lack of space. Resources include anything from litter boxes, to feeding stations, to water bowls, to resting spots, to vertical space. It’s a good idea to follow the rule of one per cat plus one extra in terms of everything your cat finds valuable. That way there is always more than enough, and your cats don’t have to share if they don’t want to.
- If fighting occurs, evaluate using the two previous points. Do you have multiple resources spread all throughout your home? How were the cats introduced to each other? If you feel you’ve done well in those aspects and are still having issues, fully separating the cats and reintroducing them may be necessary. Be sure to use a lot of positive reinforcement when they are around each other through playtime and high value treats. If you didn’t like someone, but every time you had to see them someone paid you $100, chances are you’d learn to tolerate them a little bit better, right?
A Few Reasons Why Two Cats Are Better Than One
Having two or more cats doesn’t always have to be stressful. There are many joys and benefits of having multiple cats, besides the obvious one of twice the snuggles and love! As previously mentioned, most cats really do enjoy the company of another cat. Most cat adoption agencies will even go as far as to encourage you to adopt two kittens rather than just one, so they grow up always having a friend and playmate. Introducing adult cats can be harder, but can be very successful.
- Is your cat high energy? Is he destructive or getting into everything? Chances are, he’s the only cat. Getting your high energy, crazy cat an appropriately matched playmate can reduce many unwanted behaviors related to a lack of play and enrichment.
- Do you spend a lot of time out of the house? Maybe you’re heading back to school at night, or you travel a lot for work. If your cat has a companion to keep him company, you won’t feel as guilty about leaving him at home for longer periods of time. In some circumstances, having multiple cats can prevent one from developing separation anxiety (however, this is not a guaranteed way to treat the issue).
- When cats are friends, they will show it by mutual grooming, cuddling, playing together, and sharing space with each other. And it’s adorable. You’ll get a warm and fuzzy feeling seeing them together and lots of cute content for your social media.
- The more cats you adopt, the more lives you save. And believe it or not, it’s not that much more expensive to have two cats than it is to have one. If you have reservations about adopting a cat due to financial reasons, or if you are worried that the two cats won’t get along, a great alternative to adoption is fostering. Any rescue group or shelter will be able to set you up with a foster cat, and they will cover the cost of vet bills and supplies while you have the cat. There are two great outcomes here: either your foster cat will find a great home with someone else, or they’ll find a great home with you!
All in all, for multiple reasons, having two or more cats is almost always better than one! Be sure to choose cats who are appropriately matched in terms of age and energy level and take the time to introduce them properly. A little bit of hard work at the beginning will pay off in the end!