Living in a Multicat Household: How to Maintain Peace and Harmony

Do you share your heart and home with a clowder of kitties? Does your feline community get along well most of the time, or do you have a few feisty furry family members who are constantly picking fights with their feline roomies and upsetting the peace and harmony in your home?

Tabby cat friends

While many cats can coexist peacefully in a multi-cat community, some cats just don’t get along. Instead of ignoring each other these cats can potentially cause general group mayhem. Although these cats have their legitimate reasons for their disturbing behavior, the good news is that there are several interventions we can help to reduce the noisy squabbling and create a more peaceful feline environment.

Scratching is a normal feline behavior so it’s crucial to provide your kitties with plenty of scratching surfaces; both horizontal and vertical. A good rule of thumb is to have one scratching post or cat tree for every cat in the home. Cats are drawn to several different textured surfaces, so offer them a variety from which to choose. Cats scratch to mark their territories, and use them to sharpen and clean their nails, and to fully stretch out their bodies.

Place litter boxes in strategic locations that are convenient for cats. There are kitties who absolutely refuse to share litter boxes. Therefore it’s best to have one litter box per cat, plus one more. Since humans are not the only ones who abhor a dirty toilet, cats also require that their “toilets” are clean. Scoop the litter boxes at least once a day, (or more if it’s necessary). Since litter boxes are also an area that cats use to mark their territory; since the aroma of scented litter is not feline-friendly, avoid using it.

According to Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy, some cats are mostly tree dwellers while others prefer to hang out in caves. Tree-dwellers are instinctively drawn to heights as this keeps them safe from predators and also allows them to survey their environment; keeping current on all household action.

Provide your tree dwellers with multiple perches around the home. Consider giving the cats access to high closet shelves, and place cat trees and perches near the windows. Watching birds and other wild life is both fascinating and entertaining for cats, so what could better keep them interested and occupied?

To keep your cave dwellers happy, take a few large cardboard boxes and tape the top and bottom closed. Cut a hole in one side and stash a pillow or a fluffy towel inside the box. Then place the boxes in several locations around the house. Cave dwellers are also attracted to low bookshelves and closet bottoms. Be sure to make a special separate place in which they can hide or to escape for some quiet, peaceful time.

Keep plenty of “safe” toys around the house. Spend some time each day in interactive play with your cats. Interactive play mimics hunting behavior and gives kitties an opportunity to catch their “prey”. Interactive play also helps us to bond more strongly with our cats.

Since some cats who live in multi-cat homes become extremely protective of their food and water supply. To help prevent fighting and food “hogging”, give the cats separate food and water bowls placed in different locations around the house.

Using products such as Feliway diffusers, Bach flower remedies and Spirit Essences can sooth “scardey cats” and also calm aggressive kitties. Since feline aggression may also be caused from pain due to an underlying medical condition, such as kidney stones, bladder infections, or arthritis (to mention a few), to rule out any physical cause, a veterinary checkup is in order.

Naturally there are some cats who will never become best friends. Using patience and compassion, and by making the feline environment more “user friendly”, we can help cats to learn to live with each other peacefully in a multi-cat home.

If you presently live in, or in the past have had a multi-cat home, tell us what has worked for you to help peace and harmony reign.

Jo

Photo Credit: Gita Rau

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Living in a Multicat Household: How to Maintain Peace and Harmony — 32 Comments

  1. All of ours get along well except for Renny. He was a feral kitten who pretty much hid the first few months after his rescue. You can’t make any sudden noises around him, and God forbid if you ever step on his tail. He snubs you for a week. Renny has only certain cats he can be around. His girlfriend Jubi and Oozy can go back to my bedroom where he spends most of his time. Lucky sleeps with him and so does our cat-dog Cujo. None of the others can stay in the bedroom or they fight.

    If Renny wants to come into the main part of the house, our boys Jasper and Sammy have to be put in my little writing room or they’ll jump him or he’ll jump them. Renny is a tiny cat. He never grew up but he thinks he’s a bad-ass.

    He and Sealy got along great, but now Sealy will growl at him if Sealy goes back to my bedroom. Sealy is fine with him in the living room.

    Look at that cute little face. You’d never guess you had a spitfire in such a small package. He was so wild when we got him we had to get permission from the shelter director. I think he had bitten a few workers and he had also escaped for a few days.

    We never even thought of rehoming him because he’s a hard cat to please. He does like to drape himself over my shoulder in bed at night.

    Our other cats pretty much adjusted immediately. We were just very good at knowing who would get along. Even our stray we had to bring inside acted like he’d lived inside forever. No fights with anyone. We couldn’t believe it.

    • He does like to drape himself over my shoulder in bed at night.

      Big Momma! The mother cat. I like that. It’s all about socialisation and having a defensive nature due to being exposed to a lot of intimidating events in his short life. Still you manage well through keep harmony in a big multi-cat household.

    • Well, it does take an intelligent and sensible person to manage well a group of cats in a household particularly if they are full-time indoor cats. When cats live in groups there is potential for quite a lot of emotional shenanigans to go on and the cat’s caretaker only to be aware of this.

  2. I’m having another cat come live here in a month or so. I’m pretty nervous about it because I don’t know if they will get along. She’s a nice cat and she is being bullied by other cats where she is now which is partly why I am taking her.

    I hope it’s ok and that I don’t require things like Feliway – I am hoping alot of attention and play time will make all the problems go away if there are any.

    • Yea im pretty sure it will all work out. I have a multi home of 5 cats. At first they didn’t always get along but, slowly they sort out their differences. As most of my cats can go outside, i only need to worry about one litter tray. Although in saying that, tiger still abit shy and nervous.

    • There is one aspect of multi-cat households that is sometimes overlooked: the hierarchical structure of life when cats live in groups. This causes the dominant cat to perhaps compete with another dominant cat and also you can get dominant cats intimidating timid cats. This sort of behaviour causes tensions.

      If anybody can make a group of cats harmonious it is you! Bon voyage 😉

  3. Yea well Ozzie my black Cat thinks hes the boss, when i had Tammy she thought she was. I just try my best to help them to get along.

  4. The most cats we have had at one time was five, one being a neighbour’s cat who was bullied by his female sibling as they grew up, so he almost lived with us full time.
    Our only problem was Walter who has only ever really got along with Jozef, we just had to keep an eye on them all to keep them safe from him bullying them.
    Of course they all had their freedom so there was no frustration amongst them and we had lots of ‘caves’ up high and down low in the house for after dark and wet weather and they decided their own bed mates. Walter and Popsy slept on Babz bed and he didn’t mind that at all, Jozef and Ebony slept on mine and Tamuri if he stayed overnight, slept in a cat basket on my wardrobe.
    I think just staying calm and making sure each and every cat feels special, showing no favouritism to one, it works out well.
    But because of Walt’s tendency to bully we only have the two now as we lost the others as the years went by 🙁 It wouldn’t be fair on our boyz to expect them to accept a new cat as they are both coming up to 13, it would upset the harmony and also be unfair on a new cat.

  5. Another excellent article, Jo, full of wisdom and excellent suggestions, all of which are observed/followed here. In the past, when our feline family has been larger, we were fortunate to have been able to build a really nice catio; before that, when we lived in an area where there were many “community cats”, we got as many vetted and “speutered” as we could, and built a variety of cat houses for them to shelter in, as well as fencing and gating the property. With only six indoor cats at present, we follow all of your tips; another thing that is very beneficial for us is that our house is quite large, giving each cat the opportunity to have his or her own room if that’s what works for them at any given time. Feeding is done in one room, and there are six litter boxes, which are scooped 5 or so times daily. Spats seldom occur!

  6. Well, goodness.
    I’ll have to comment on this tomorrow since I’m out of time right now.
    Harmony, bliss, peace, quiet….. LOL!

  7. I can’t understand why Americans say spay or neuter when neuter covers both sexes, the definition of neutering in the Oxford dictionary is ‘spay or castrate a domestic animal’
    To neuter is to desex.

    • Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend anyone, but speutering conjures up an image of someone vomiting lol because here in the North, to spew is to vomit.
      I’m a defender of the English language and hate lazy words, it’s sad to see some entering dictionaries 🙁
      But that’s just me of course and I’ve succumbed to lol and btw etc now 🙁

      • Really bad grammar drives me crazy.
        The phrase “Gone Missing” just agitates me.
        It’s improper but being used by all now.

        • Me too Dee
          and gonna and wanna irritate me lol it’s so lazy!
          Young people here are unintelligable at times, cave man speak, swallowed Ts like a drink of wah her

          • What happened to literarcy in the UK? It has disintegrated. O levels in the 1960s look harder than A levels now. Education has been dumbed down and standards have fallen. The internet is partly to blame I think.

            • I think you are right Michael and texting on mobile phones too, yes excusable to write ‘c u later’ when there is a word limit to a message sent but not excusable when writing in an email or on a web site where the number of words we use don’t have to be paid for.

            • Just a thought out there, that some people actually struggle with litercy probs me included. My problem is i struggle with Reading Comprehension. I find it really hard when people use rather long words & except people to understand them. Just my thought.

  8. For the most part, there is mostly a state of contentment here. That doesn’t mean that everyone likes everyone else. It means that there is acceptance and tolerance among them for the most part.
    My cats are cliquish and each group has there different areas. A couple have only partnered with one other. There is a definite hierarchical structure within each group. The only real spats that happen are when bosses collide.
    Feeding times are chaotic and when most of the spats occur. Every square inch of my kitchen is the common dining room. There’s sharing among group members and low tolerance for crossing over and indulging in the “wrong groups” feeders.
    Litter box sharing is a whole other issue that I’ll save for another time.

  9. Most of the time we have peace here with 7 cats, a blind Collie, a Pittie Mix and a GSD. Every now and then our matriarch, Mischief, will seek out Carrie (our newest that is fully integrated) and try to beat her up. Carrie is a cave dweller and prefers her “hidey hole” scratch post or under the chair. We keep her protected by giving Mischief some “time outs” now and then. We also give Mischief quite a bit of extra love and attention as she is 16 and has developed renal disease and some arthritis. She is being treated for both. We also use Jackson’s idea of visual blocking. When I see Missy starting to stalk Carrie, I block her vision with something (i.e. my body, a box, a blanket, whatever works) and that has helped tremendously.

  10. As being own by 7 cats, 3 sets of sisters there is rarely any peace and quiet here. The oldest Missy and Tasha are about 12 years old and very laid back for the most part. In the middle are the 3 she demons Ginger,Patches and Sandy about 7 years old. Actually Sandy is pretty good. The other two constantly harass the older two and the youngest two. Dot the Snot and Freckles are the babies of the bunch who are 6 years old and the middle two in particular sneak attack them all the time. Matter of fact I just had Freckles in for major surgery for a bladder stone which could have been caused by all the stress she has. Dot is very brave, but Freckles is really sensitive. I have yet to figure out how to fix this situation other than closing the youngest off in separate room 100% of the time. Which is not right. The only other alternative is to re-home Ginger and Patches but I don’t see that happening because of their age. I will not give up Freckles after her going through so much trauma. Any suggestions??? I have large single house built like a double and they are all indoor cats.

    • A dilemma, for sure.
      I don’t like secluding cats either. I’m trying to figure out if there is a way not to have a closed door but still make all feel safe. I wonder how feasible it would be to install a screened door to the doorway so there’s, at least, visibility. That’s pretty extreme I guess. But, actually, I think that I would try to create something like a chicken wire frame that would be able to be moved to the side when I want to get in the room.
      This may all sound crazy, but that’s my thinking.
      Just out of curiosity, why did you choose to seclude the youngest rather than to seclude the attackers?
      Also, is anyone physically hurt from the sneak attacks?

      • I guess secluding the ones being picked on comes from when they came in the house as the smallest, and they still the smallest of them all. I have thought about doing just the opposite but honestly with the many personal problems I faced in the past year I never went through with it. Thanks so much for reminding me. Right now she is crated in a room and I do have a perfect height gate blocking the door so she can see out and they have not figured out a way to get in. This is because I have a vacuum holding the gate upright in the middle so there is no room for them to actually jump in. I am waiting for her to heal more from major surgery before I let her roam the room she is in. I know she will be terrified just thinking about being let out, and I hope once she realizes they can not get to her she will settle down. Once again thanks for reminding me to put the trouble makers in a room and block them off so she will be comfortable to move around the house freely. It is very possible the sore on her paw may have been caused by one of the others. That had to be stitched up at the same time as the bladder surgery.

  11. Our home is multi-cat and for the most part things are quiet. We have food issues so the cats with overly passive issues eat on separate plates away from the others. When a cat arrives here we house them in a huge cat cage that we set up in the living room. It affords the new cat comfort and it lets the other cats smell and see the newbie. After about a week we open the cage door and allow the cats to visit. The results are always good.

    The only problem we have is Chipper. She was abandoned in a home when her owner suddenly died from a stroke. No one knew she was in the house. For three month she survived alone eating garbage, bugs, mice and whatever was left in the house after people broke into the house and had drug parties. When we found out she was there we rescued her immediately. She is a sweet and adoring cat but three months of isolation has made her sanity very delicate and very cranky with the other cats. They ignore her unless she starts a fight. The spat is always a short one because they stand their ground. There is a lot and spitting and snarling and then it is over.

    I love the ideas you gave for making life better for my fur kids. Almost all of them are already in place. Glad I am doing something right. 🙂 Thanks for all the great ideas.

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