Managing Multiple Cats
Veterinarian Reviewed on March 31, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Cats are territorial animals, but they can and do get along with other cats. In fact, many cats enjoy the company of other felines once they get used to the idea. While some cats will never get along, most cats find a way to peacefully coexist in the same household.
Introducing a New Cat into Your Household
When you bring a new cat into a home that already has a resident feline, keep in mind that initially, the cat that was there first will experience this as an invasion of her territory. It is usually less threatening to the resident cat if the new cat is younger and older cats usually adjust very well to the presence of kittens.
Keep the cats separated at first, with the new cat confined to one room. A general rule of thumb is that the cats should not come in direct contact with each other for about a week. The resident cat will sense the presence of the new cat, and will gradually become accustomed to the idea.
After a few days, you can switch the cats so that each can explore the territory of the other. Finally, bring the new cat into the same room as the resident cat with the new cat in a carrier so your resident cat can see him without making physical contact. Expect some growling or hissing to take place when the cats first encounter each other, though in many cases, cats that are introduced this way have little or no reaction to each other.
Once the cats seem reasonably accustomed to the idea that there is another feline in the household, you can allow them to meet face to face. Be sure to monitor the first meeting, but do not be overly concerned about hissing or growling. If you sense that they are going to hurt each other, separate them again and give them more time to adjust.
The cats should be supervised whenever they are together until you are completely sure that they can coexist without conflict. Don’t be discouraged if this takes more time than you had initially hoped. Eventually, most cats are able to get along, though it can take several months to establish a routine of peaceful coexistence.
Cats are stressed when they are crowded, so if you have more than one cat, make sure there is enough space in your home for each cat to have his or her own territory. You will probably notice that the cats, not you, will choose their spots. For instance, if you have three cats, you may find one of them always on the left side of the sofa, another usually curled up on a chair, and the third always in the same location on your bed!
Cats will fight over food, water and litter boxes. Ideally, each cat in your household should have her own food and water bowl, and there should also be one litter box per cat. Provide each cat with his own bedding and his own toys as well.
Finally, be sure not to play favorites. If you have more than one cat in your home, be sure to give them equal amounts of attention and affection. You will get to know which cat needs what from you. Some cats will require lap time, while others will want to play. If you have a loner among your felines, respect that as well (without completely ignoring the animal, of course).
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan