Our Cats And The Special Relationships They Have

Michael (PoC) asked me a few days ago to write about our cats and the special relationships they have with each other. That’s a difficult topic. There’s so much information to be shared, and it’s going to be hard not to turn this article into book length. It’s also going to be quite unbelievable to a few of you reading this.

Cat relationships in a multi-cat household. Photos by Elisa. Montage by Michael.

Cat relationships in a multi-cat household. Photos by Elisa. Montage by Michael.

Most of them get along

Let me start at the beginning. That would be with Lola and Furby being our first cats back in 2009. Then in 2010 Laura and I talked it over after seeing so many cats euthanized at the Greenville, SC shelter. We decided we’d try to save a few and give them a better life. We downsized last year, but still have enough cats that it would be a problem if most of them didn’t get along.

We would choose the cats we wanted to save without meeting them in person first

The unbelievable part of this story is in how Laura and I would choose the cats we wanted to save without meeting them in person first. We would both look over the list of cats sent in daily emails by the Greenville shelter. I don’t know how or why it happened the way it did, but we’d always choose the same cats. I would usually look for the cat with the saddest expression. The one who had given up and desperately needed out of the shelter. The one at the top of the list and quite possibly the next to die. The only time a wrong choice was made was when the shelter coordinator asked me to take two cats in as fosters. That was when Brinkley and Alto came to us at the beginning of 2012. Brinkley ended up remaining with us, but Alto hated other cats. He ended up staying in my master bath until a rescue had a spot for him, and he eventually went to a home where he was an only pet.

The calm cats

The cats have done a lot of the work for us as to which room they like the most. Our “calm” cats are Cassie, Coral, Lola, Brinkley, Sheela and Shirley. They prefer quiet and spend a lot of time in Laura’s bedroom, where they have tables and a cat tree so they can look out the window.

The brat pack

Mandy, Jasper and Sammy are known as the “brat pack.” They were our first rescue back in November 2010. They wrestle each other and I can honestly say “the boys” have taught their sister well. Furby also makes the list of our cats most likely to cause trouble. The cats with the most energy tend to stay in the living room and kitchen and are constantly looking for trouble.

The cats who just don’t get along with anyone else

My room has become the quietest room in the house. After Alto left us we had to use my room for Lucky and Renny. Both boys were rescued as kittens and they’re the cats who just don’t get along with anyone else. Renny is still quite feral and spooks easily. You can look at him the wrong way and he hides. The problem with Renny is he likes to pick a fight with anyone he comes in contact with. I guess he’s intimidated the wrong cat one time too many, because Jasper and Sammy will jump on him any time he visits the living room. The brat pack will also try to fight with Lucky, who’s really a sweet soul. I guess he just looks vulnerable. Laura rotates cats to give them living room time by putting Jasper and Sammy in her bedroom. Lucky and Renny have a bed made in front of each window in my room. They also have a pillow on a table by my bed, and the bed itself to sleep on.

The cats get along sleeping together and grooming each other in cat friendly home

Other than that situation the cats get along. They’re constantly playing together or sleeping together or grooming each other. I think a lot of the balance comes with the way our home is set up for the cats. Like Marc, we’ve managed to make our home cat friendly. We have a cat tree and two feeding cages in the living room. The pillow on top of the feeding cages is the coveted spot, and sometimes two cats will share it for a nap.

Resting places

We also have a very large red cushion on the kitchen bar, plus a very expensive cat hidey-hole type bed that Furby won in a beauty contest. There’s always someone napping up there too. A few years ago I purchased a long table for the kitchen, where we balanced a broken cat tree, a cat condo, a cat bed and a feeding station. The table always has a few nappers up high on top of the cat tree cushions. And the top of the microwave has a towel where one or two cats can take a nap when it’s not in use. The top shelf of the bathroom towel rack is also set up for cat napping. We also use the Pet Taxi, along with the two cages, to feed those on special diets. The rest of the time the doors stay open and the cats nap in them. By doing this there’s less fear when one does have to go to the vet. We hear very little meowing when a vet trip is necessary. Furby even sleeps the whole ride there and back.

Cat interactions – examples

It’s interesting to watch our cats interact. There are very few disagreements, and lots of special relationships between them. The most noted is our Midnight, who was the only kitten in her family to survive panleuk back in 2011. She and Brinkley have a deep love of each other. We’ll catch them lots of times laying together with their paws touching. I’ve even listed them as “cat married” on my social media sites. Laura always has a bed full of cats at night, and some nights it’s best to cover your head when they get into a playing mood. The cats don’t care who they jump on, and have even given Laura a few black eyes from landing on her face.

Planned introductions

I think the way we introduced new cats to the rest of the family had a lot to do with them getting along. Laura’s room was always the isolation room until we were sure the cat was healthy. Or as in most of the cats we took in-treated for the upper respiratory infection brought home from the shelter. The cat would be provided a bed, food, water, litter box and a few action toys. The turbo scratcher is the best we’ve ever invested in. Once time came for the new cat to meet the other cats, Laura would put the calm cats in her room with the new arrival. This gives the new cat the chance to observe and hopefully feel safe in a new environment. It takes a lot of the stress off a cat to be in a room where the cat feels safe.

No bad fights

We’ve never had any bad fights to break up. Mostly just a bit of growling and hissing as the cats determine their role of power in the family. I’ve noticed a lot of tail twitching when the cats are first getting acquainted with each other. I believe that’s how ours communicate with each other. Jasper, Sammy and our dog Cujo do like to wrestle hard, but they’re playing and not fighting. Most of our cats have been calm since they arrived. I really believe that by watching each other they know they’re in a good place with their every need furnished.

Lap cats

We only have a few what you’d call lap cats. Sealy holds the #1 position, and I have to hold him for at least an hour every night. Mandy, Sammy and jasper also love being held. The others would rather be with the other cats napping or playing.

I’m sorry about the length, but I felt it necessary to put all of this information into one article because I get questioned almost daily on these issues. I hope this has answered a lot of questions on how to make and keep happy cats.


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Our Cats And The Special Relationships They Have — 14 Comments

  1. Thanks for this Elisa. Of course I have read it word for word. What I get from it is that cats are like people when it comes to getting along with others in a group. Most do get along (probably because it is better for the whole). Some are very nice characters (Brinkley seems to that sort of character) who probably contribute more to group cohesion than others and some are less sociable or downright impossible.

    Also the fact that you chose from pictures is very unusual. However, I think you are very skilled at cat caretaking which may account for the general harmony amongst the cats.

    It does prove once again that stresses can build in multi-cat households because there will be some antagonistic behavior. It is probably impossible to chose cats that you know will get along. I am not how a person can do that unless they are close relatives.

    I would have thought that the best group – a smaller one – would be entirely siblings if harmony needs to be guaranteed.

    • I agree that Elisa is just very good at it so her cats mostly get along and are happy and stimulated.

      I honestly believe that most cats can get along but in a person’s home that can be less easy then out in the wild. So the home has to be the right kind of place with a good atmosphere and generally happy ans satisfied cats – and then only in unusual cases will you have a specific cat or two who just need to be alone in a home without other cats. Of course these cats do appear but equally I’d say many cats in people’s homes who apparently don’t get along, don’t get along because the home is insufficient for them or too much – either way they are stressed and that just makes them want to be alone more.

      • I think one of the major potential stressors in multicat homes is the space. Cats are forced to share what are called “home ranges”. The natural size of territory for an individual domestic cat might be several acres to a lot more than that. In a full-time indoor home environment sharing it with other cats the amount of space each cat has is about ten square feet. That takes a lot of adaptation. Females require less space and perhaps adapt better. I don’t know.

        You’re right. It’s about making the available space as cat-friendly as possible to ease these potential tensions.

        • I don’t believe the 10 square foot rule has been explained to these cats. Lucky and Renny sleep curled up together in my room. Several of the other cats go back there and visit with them with no issues. Then when the visiting cat is ready to come out it will meow at the door.

          Jasper and Sammy seem to hold equal power in the household as being the dominant males. Furby is our nosiest cat, but he thinks it’s his job to patrol the house and keep everything running smoothly.

          Laura is the one that amazes me. She’s with the cats almost all the time and she knows when one is about to get sick. I get woken up in time for a vet visit when that happens. Thankfully we’ve only had to deal with a few bouts this year. Laura watches to be sure each cat is eating and if they stop eating she knows something is wrong. Laura can also tell how many times a day each cat has been to the litter box. I’d go so far as she can tell who’s in the litter box just by identifying cat gas as they go. She deserves a medal.

      • I just wanted everyone to see we don’t have perfect cats all the time. I forgot to mention after the calm cats are introduced to a new cat the next step is leaving the bedroom door open and allowing the new cat to wander into the living room. The new cat would usually run back quite a few times the first few days, then feel safe enough to check out the living room and kitchen. We never rush things.

      • Very laid back. He’s also good around food when we eat. He waits patiently for a bite. All of our cats love broccoli and spinach treats. And they know the sound of a cheese wrapped from 2 rooms away. Jasper, Sammy and Mandy are our active cats. And Cujo our cat-dog chases and gets chased by them on a daily basis. They’re so much fun to watch. Brinkley likes to wrestle with the boys. I wish I could video that. They have so much fun.

        • What is this with broccoli and spinach? Have you written about this before? I think you have. But it is very unusual for cats to like “greens” as we call them in the UK.

          • Furby loves spinach pizza. And Sealy and the others go crazy over steamed broccoli. I found out about the green veggies years ago when my first cat Smoky turned up and all we had to give her was canned green peas. She loved them. Our cats also like green beans. They won’t touch turnip greens tho.

              • Michael you won’t believe the times I’ve been critisized for not feeding our cats a vegetarian diet. It’s hard to convince some people cats need meat. But obviously some people feed their cats strictly veggies, which vets agree can cause health issues.

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