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Making Your Multi-Cat Household Harmonious

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We humans tend to anthropomorphise our pets (give them human attributes). As we’re social creatures who seek out the company of others, we assume everything else must be – including our cats.

However, cats are solitary hunters who guard their territory fiercely. It’s little wonder then that our attempts to give them a ‘friend’ in the form of another cat is often a recipe for disaster.

By taking steps to make feline introductions as smooth as possible and minimise possible conflict, you can help ensure that your cats can live happily together. 

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Introducing a new cat or kitten:

  • Set up a safe sanctuary for the new cat to use as their base. This way they can feel secure as they settle in. Your existing cat will be able to smell the newcomer and vice versa. Reinforce this by stroking one cat and then other so you transfer their scent.
  • Stage a controlled introduction with your new cat in a crate, pen or cage. Keep them pliant and distracted with treats.
  • Allow a proper face to face meeting. Don’t force this – simply leave the door to the safe space open and let your cats’ own curiosity do the rest. Monitor this closely.

It’s important not to rush this process and only move at a pace that both cats feel comfortable with. If either of them seem agitated or aggressive then simply have a break, go back a step and try again.

Don’t be surprised or alarmed if these initial cat meetings involve hissing and raised hackles. A cat’s instinct is to make themselves seem big and threatening, but they will avoid confrontation if at all possible.

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Tips for peaceful feline relations:

Generally speaking, it’s easier to introduce a kitten if you already have an adult cat – they’ll see them as less of a threat. You may also find it less combative if you get a new cat who is the opposite gender to your existing cat.

Cats don’t share so it’s essential to provide enough resources for all the cats in your house. This means that your cats need their own:

  • Food and water bowls
  • Beds
  • Litter trays
  • Scratching posts

Inadequate resources means that cats lower down the ‘pecking order’ are likely to get bullied or intimidated out of resources. Make sure that resources are distributed around the house.

Make sure that pets have a variety of toys to play with and try to encourage non-competitive play so they’re not competing for your attention over one toy.

Increase their inside territory by purchasing cat ‘trees’ with perfect spots for cats on different levels.  High territory also makes cats feel secure as they they can’t be ambushed.

Within a neighbourhood, local cats will each have their own area of territory and the same applies, on a smaller scale, with your house. Here, a cat’s territory may comprise solely of a certain bed or chair, with the most of the house being ‘shared’ space.

Use a product like Feliway (as a plugin or a spray) in the home. This contains pheromones which help to naturally relax cats.

How do I know if my cats are stressed or unhappy?

Happy cats are confident, curious and playful. They’ll groom regularly, but not too much, and they’ll eat enthusiastically but not gorge themselves. If your pet stops any of these then there’s a chance they’re stressed by something. Over-grooming and over-eating are also signs of stress.

You may also notice the emergence of anti-social behaviours such as scratching or spraying inside the house. These behaviours are typically associated with cats maintaining territory and will reflect stress they may be undergoing due to change and an ‘interloper’ in the house.

You know your cats so you’ll be the one to notice when they seem a bit ‘off’.

These general guidelines are designed to help your cats get off to the best possible start and live in relative harmony. However, just like with us, sometimes you may find that personalities simply clash. It may be that your cats never become the best of friends, but merely tolerate each other. Don’t feel downhearted by this – it’s perfectly normal cat behaviour!

If you have a query about cat behaviour or anything else, please contact your local Medivet practice for advice. You can find your local practice by using our online practice finder


Posted August 5, 2014 in Pet Care Advice

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