How to Have a Multi-Cat Household
Written by: Richard Rowland
Our cats have strong, independent personalities – so what are the best ways to ensure harmony in multi-feline households? There are a few approaches we can take to make sure things run smoothly between kitties that live under the same roof.
Solo Kitty or Furry Free-For-All?
First, think about what you’re trying to achieve with a multi-cat household. Many cats are perfectly happy being the sole focus of their owner’s attention. And if you’re out of the house a lot due to work or other commitments, they’ll generally be content to sleep and amuse themselves.
However, a growing body of research argues that many cats can be happier as part of a bonded pair or larger group. Cats can learn vital social skills through play with one another, and an inadequately socialized kitty might display more destructive and anxious behavior around the home.
In addition, a solo cat will need more focused play and enrichment time from their owner, while cats kept in a group will typically play together a lot – meaning they won’t need as much input from you. On the other hand, multiple cats will, of course, mean more cleaning and more food and medical expenses.
Ultimately, though, the evidence suggests that the amount of time and resources you can spend on your cat are more important factors for their happiness than whether they’re kept solo or with other cats. You know your living situation best, so the final decision as to whether to take on a single cat – or more – is up to you.
The classic situation for beginning a multi-cat household is by taking on two related kittens of the same age. They’ll already be familiar with each other from their litter and you’ll be able to watch them grow and adapt at the same pace. If it’s not possible to adopt kittens from the same mother, you could consider getting two (or more) kittens of a similar age from different sources.
There are a number of potential advantages to bringing up multiple cats together. Not only will they socialize each other and keep each other entertained while you’re out of the house, they’ll help groom one another (it can be difficult for cats to reach their own faces and ears). What's more, the extra activity of playing together can keep them trim and prevent weight gain.
Growing up in an environment with plenty of exercise from kittenhood will set your cats up for a lifetime of active play, too. This will keep them healthier and happier in the long run.
Finally, when it comes to cost, you won’t find too much difference in the day-to-day expenses of owning two cats versus one, and your veterinarian may offer annual or month plans which cover multiple pets. Plus, you can always consider getting pet health insurance.
Adopting a Pair of Cats
So, once you’ve decided that multi-cat companionship is right for you and your household, these tips will help you to ensure that your similar-aged new arrivals get the very best start:
- Two non-bonded females may be a combustible mix, if they aren’t from the same litter. A pair of males, or a male and female combination, will be more likely to get along if they’re not from the same family.
- A pair of kittens introduced to the home at the same time can often share a litter tray, although it will need to be large enough for them both to have their own distinct area. Choose a top-rated, easily-cleanable natural cat litter to keep the tray – and your home – smelling fresh.
- Make sure that both kittens have their own food and water bowls. This will ensure that both cats get their fair share of food.
- Similarly, separate scratching posts could be a good investment. Same-age cats who’ve grown up together can often share scratching posts without issues, but if one cat does become possessive or territorial of a shared post the other often ends up scratching furniture.
- Make sure your new arrivals have an environment rich with toys and activity options. Catnip toys make a great option for a bonded pair of kittens.
Introducing a New Cat
If you already have a single feline family member, there are some simple steps you should also consider before introducing a new cat to your home.
New Arrival, New Scent
Before introducing the new cat, wipe him or her down with some items scented with the smell of their new home, like old clothes or a towel.
Keep the new cat in a single room for the first few days. During this period take some things they’ve been sleeping on and give them to the original cat, so they can get accustomed to their new friend’s smell.
Food and Play
Feed the cats at the same time while they’re behind opposite sides of the same door – that way the established cat will associate the newcomer with something good happening!
Cuddle and play with both cats separately, one after another, so they can both get used to each others’ scents while enjoying playtime with you.
On day three or four, allow the new cat out of their room. Don’t force the cats together – let them seek each other out naturally.
A younger cat will typically try and play with an older cat. Keep an eye on them to make sure a younger newcomer isn’t bothering an older cat with overly boisterous play.
Hissing at this point isn’t necessarily threatening, cats communicate with hisses.
Litter and Trays
Give the new cat their own litter tray. Cats mark their territory by urinating, and forcing two cats that are unfamiliar with each other to share a tray will make both of them confused, anxious, and stressed.
It may also lead to them using other areas of the house. Consider a premium litter to attract your cats to their trays and embed good toilet habits.
Having a multi-cat household can be a rewarding endeavor, but it requires patience and planning. If your cats are properly introduced, there's no reason you can't live in harmony with plenty of purrs to go around!
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