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How to Keep the Peace in a Multiple Cat Household

by Erin Platt April 13, 2016 0 Comments

How to Keep the Peace in a Multiple Cat Household

Having more than one cat in the house does not make you a crazy cat lady. 

Having 50 cats in the house might be closer to crazy cat lady levels, but you’re in good company if you a handful of cute fur balls living at home. 

Your cats are adorable, and yes I can safely say that since all cats are cute in their own ways, but even cute creatures can let their competitive side get the best of them. Sibling rivalry isn’t just for your two-legged children.

Cats can definitely take attention-seeking and competition to a whole new level.

So how do you keep the peace in a multi-cat family? The following are tricks of the trade to help let your fur babies live in harmony. 

 

How to Keep the Peace in a Multiple Cat Household

 


Harmony with Multiple Cats Means Having Multiple Litter Boxes, Food Bowls, and Perches

As a kid, I had four brothers and two sisters. This made mealtimes a constant adventure. If I didn’t eat fast enough, I was guaranteed to lose at least a portion of my food to a hungry brother. We would ferociously guard our plates until we felt full, and then it was fair game.

Multicat household

Cats are even more protective of their food. And their beds. And their litter boxes. And their hiding places or perches. They're territorial especially amongst their fellow “siblings.” If you have more than one cat and they tend to fight, get doubles of everything (food bowls, bedding, litter boxes, and cat trees/perches) to help keep the peace. This keeps down the sibling rivalry in ways my family could never accomplish.

Cat trees, perches, and hideaways are very important for the life of your furniture. If the leader of your cat family decides that her favorite hangout is the only cat tree in the house, that leaves the rest of your cats to scratch the rest of your furniture to mark their territory and sharpen their nails. Having multiple cat trees, preferably with a couple different levels, can greatly extend the life of your couch and tables.



Cats Use a Social Hierarchy to Determine Territory and Dominance

How to Keep the Peace in a Multiple Cat Household

Like the mafia, cats have a distinct hierarchy with one furry friend acting as the boss of the family. Unlike the mafia, however, this is usually a girl cat.

It was only recently that scientists discovered that lions aren't the only cats with a social hierarchy and specified territories. How does this help you? Knowing the social order in your house means knowing which cat is in charge, which ones are encroaching on another’s territory, and what will happen if you bring a new fur ball home.

Having a female boss means your cats have a matriarchal order. The girls will usually buddy up (though neutered cats will buddy up since they don’t have to worry about that pesky mating thing) to help each other out with grooming, raising the kids, and even helping them give birth if you decided to have kittens. If you are going out of town and are leaving the cats at home, keep the buddies together if you separate them into groups. Your cats, and your furniture, may survive the trip.

You may think you own the furniture and rooms in your home, but in reality, the cats are in charge. Each of your cats owns a piece of your house. If one cat tends to be on your couch all the time, and another on your bed, they’ve laid claim. So if they switch it up and your living room cat decides to take a nap on the bed, you’ll probably have a fight on your hands unless you step in with playtime or moving the offending kitty back to his territory.



How to Introduce Your New Cat to the Cat Family

How to Keep the Peace in a Multiple Cat Household

You ever notice that moms are always right? The advise your mom gave you about making a good first impression actually applies to  your cats. That adorable little kitten you’re bringing home is going to give your first furry friend some emotional trauma regardless, but there are ways to make the transition less painful for everyone.

According to Pam Johnson Bennet, a world-renowned cat behaviorist, the key is to take it in steps

First, let your new kitten have one room in the house to call his own. How would you feel in a brand new place where you didn’t understand anything or anyone. Having your own space can help ease the new place anxiety.

How to Keep the Peace in a Multiple Cat Household

Next, place the food bowls for each cat on either side of the door. Reward the fact that they are getting close with food so they associate “yummy” with their new playmate.

Build up the closeness. Have the bowls a few feet away on each side of the door, then right next to the door, then with the door cracked open to see how they do. Eventually, they’ll hopefully be able to eat next to each other without wanting to also kill each other.

How to Keep the Peace in a Multiple Cat Household

Remember how cats use their sense of smell better than any other sense?

Time to take advantage. Since the food training is going to take a few days, it's time to get rid of those ridiculous gym socks your husband refuses to throw away.

Make sure they're clean, and rub one sock all over your new kitty’s face to get some of those good-feeling pheromones that all cats give off. Roll up the extra long sock (because we know he could pull those socks up to his knees just to embarrass you) into a big ball and let your first fur ball play with it.

Take the second sock and do the opposite, rub it against Senior’s face and let little kitty play with it. This lets your cats get to know one another without bloodshed. Giving them treats every time they play with the socks reinforces the “yummy” association with their new friend.  A win for everyone.

How to Keep the Peace in a Multiple Cat Household 

Finally, once your now peaceful cats can eat with the door open and have played with the pheromone socks for a few days, it's time to try some serious playtime. You can finally play with your fur balls together! As long as you use two toys to do it. They’ll learn they can play with you without having to fight for your attention.

Hopefully now your cats are friends, or at least not trying to kill each other, but it’s still important to give them plenty of perches and hiding spaces throughout the house. Respect the hierarchy they establish and try not to force Senior into Kitty’s space or vice versa as that can cause the new sibling rivalry to take over.

How to Keep the Peace in a Multiple Cat Household

 

It’s definitely possible to keep the peace with many cats living in one house. We of the human variety just have to remember that cats have their own rules, and while we can love them equally, if we at least acknowledge those rules and hierarchy, it’ll make it much easier to have harmony amongst our fur children.

 

Sooo... How my cats do you have and do you best manage it? 

Erin Platt
Erin Platt

Erin has 6 years experience working directly with Cats in a Chicago based VET. Since 2014, Erin has also contributed to various pet magazines including AGE, NY times and LA weekly writing pet related articles. Her focus is mainly of health issues, pet food and housing.



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