Environmental Enrichment of cats part 3: The multi-cat household

It is a myth that cats are not social animals. They can be very social. But, there is a BUT! Cats, just like any individual, like to be able to gain personal space and gain some occasional alone time. Don’t we all?

Having several cats under the one roof can be done, but introductions of new cats or other pets into that environment should be gradual. It cannot be expected that every different personality will get along at the outset. Also, if a cat has lived its whole life without other cats around, or with only one other cat, it may find the introduction of a new cat quite intimidating, even if that new individual is a wee little kitten.

Theo at Ben and Lou's 046The first step to helping each cat have personal space is to give each cat a specific area that they can claim for their own if they choose. This means that such an area should have access to food, water, a litter tray of appropriate size, a resting place and a scratching post/mat. For the cats that are already living in the house, choosing a room that each cat already prefers can provide a better outcome. Allow each cat to become accustomed to the new changes before introducing a new animal. Watering and feeding stations should not be next to litter trays and ideally not next to each other.

Behaviour problems such as inter-cat aggression, compulsive grooming and indoor spraying can be more likely in multi-cat households. Prevention of such problems is better than trying to deal with them after they have developed. Try to make any introduction very gradual. Remember that a kitten can not only be annoying, but also quite scary to an entrenched cat who is having its whole lifestyle disrupted. Consider introducing your existing cats to the smell of any new introduction before they meet it. Make sure the introduction is associated with things your cat likes. For example, if the cat has gone to sniff and investigate something that smells of the new introduction, offer your cat a special treat that you know they like. Whenever they smell this new smell, they can get access to this special treat.

The aid of the synthetic cheek pheromone, Feliway™ from CEVA animal health can ease the introduction for all felines. Feliway™ comes in a plug-in diffuser with each refill lasting a month. Studies have shown that the pheromone can help cats feel more relaxed about new situations. Plug in the diffuser a few days before starting the introductions and close up the house for maximum effect. Plugging in the diffuser in the room where you will do the introductions will concentrate the effect of the pheromone to that room. The introductions should take place in a room that is likely to be considered a “common room” where all cats can congregate, rather than in any of the rooms that are for one specific cat. This could be somewhere you will also want to see all the cats, such as a living room or lounge room.

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