24 facts on problems with multi-cat households and some solutions

Multi-cat home problems
Multi-cat home problems. Image: MikeB. The image is free to use under a Creative Commons: ATTRIBUTION-NODERIVS CC BY-ND license. Click on it to see a full-sized version and then right click on that image. Select ‘save as’. Please link back to this page. Thanks.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats
  1. People make the mistake that two cats will automatically be company for each other. They might sometimes but often they don’t become friends.
  2. In the worst-case scenario, it may be necessary to rehome one of them.
  3. When siblings grow up, they may be no more friendly with each other than unrelated cats. They become independent-minded.
  4. The human home is quite a small amount of territory for a single domestic cat. It is a fraction of what they would normally enjoy having free rein. This compression can be stressful.
  5. More than one cat in a home is a stress-making situation for most cats.
  6. Domestic cats look upon their home as a place where there are resources such as food, warmth, security and protection. It is their “home range”.
  7. Anything which threatens those resources causes stress.
  8. People, dogs and other cats can trigger emotional conflict. The last in that list is the most common cause of threat.
  9. Cats do not disclose their stress through facial expressions or hardly so but they do through their actions such as increased marking of territory in various ways such as spraying, scratching, defecating and urinating outside the litter box, excessive vocalising, eating too much or not eating and developing cystitis (bladder inflammation) causing inappropriate urination.
  10. In a multi-cat household spraying is perhaps the most common indicator of the presence of difficult relationships between cats in the home. Cats may also scratch furniture more often to leave visible and olfactory messages. They may even, as mentioned, defecate outside the litter box as a marker and on their human’s bed.
  11. One aspect of domestic cats showing signs of insecurity in multi-cat homes is to “bed wet”; urinating on your bed sheets. The bed is a “scent soaker” in the words of Jackson Galaxy and is the core of their home range within the home. Marking it with urine is a major statement of their anxiety and the need to reassert themselves.
  12. Domestic cats spray for two reasons either as a signal of anxiety and the need to mark territory to reassert themselves within their home range or as an assertion of confident territorial ownership.
  13. Neutered cats also spray it should be added although less so than unneutered cats.
  14. The need to mark territory through urine spraying is the reason why multi-cat homes often smell badly of ammonia (a component of urine). These homes are full of anxiety and stress in some of the domestic cats living in it.
  15. Often people who keep more than one cat in the home keep their cats confined to the home which can add to the levels of anxiety because the cats’ home ranges are very much restricted. They are on top of each other, constantly interacting.
  16. People should keep a commonsense number of cats according to the size of their home. They should try and avoid cat hoarding, a not uncommon condition which is very much against cat welfare.
  17. It helps to maintain a peaceful multi-cat home if you choose opposite sexes as there will be less sibling rivalry between them.
  18. If a multi-cat home is stable in terms of cat behaviour, you shouldn’t add another cat to that group. If you do it should be a cat which is known to be sociable with other cats.
  19. One litter tray should be provided for each cat plus one more according to Jackson Galaxy and Dr. Bruce Fogle DVM.
  20. There should be one litter tray on each floor of your home. Each one should be cleaned to the correct degree. This doesn’t mean over-cleaning or under cleaning. Over-cleaning can remove the cat’s natural scent which can be a barrier to using it.
  21. Each cat should have their individual food and water bowl and they should be scattered around the kitchen.
  22. There should be many, solid, high quality, large, robust and tall cat scratching posts.
  23. There should be a variety of private resting places and high, elevated platforms for each cat to find their own comfortable and private location they can call their own.
  24. It is very rare for local ordinances to exist which limit the number of cats to any one home. It’s up to the cat caregiver to apply common sense and think about animal welfare.

Man has 15 cats, 22 litter boxes and no smell. Here’s how he did it.

Many litterboxes in a multi-cat household
Many litterboxes in a multi-cat household. These are neatly organised. Photo: in public domain as published on Pinterest.

Below are some more pages on multi-cat homes.

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