If tensions are rising in your multi-cat home, follow these top tips to ensure feline harmony is restored.

Give them their own territory

Take note of each cat’s ‘core area’ – the places they favour within the home – by watching the cats to work out which rooms they frequent regularly and which they avoid.  If the cats’ resources are located in just a couple of locations, then each group will have to meet each other in the middle to get to the essential provisions – these ‘potential areas of conflict’ can also be noted.

http://www.swellpets.co.ukOnce you’ve established where your cat’s territory is, ensure he has his own resources (cat beds, scratch posts, hiding places, litter trays, toys, feeding/water stations) in his area to avoid competition.

Access to food

Cats are solitary hunters and adapt their eating patterns to avoid conflict with other cats.  To minimise competition, try leaving small amounts of dry food in bowls around the house so your cats can choose when to eat, and position the bowls so that the cats can face any direction when eating to observe any approaching felines.

Cats prefer to drink away from feeding areas and may avoid drinking altogether if challenged by another cat, so place water bowls http://www.swellpets.co.ukaway from food.  Provide large ceramic, glass or stainless steel bowls filled to the brim so that the cat can remain vigilant while drinking.  Also, position the bowl so your cat can face any direction when drinking so he can spot any other cats.

Provide high-up resting places

Cats need somewhere safe to rest, preferably off the ground, warm and free from draughts.  Cats will head towards these high places when threatened so they can keep out of harm’s way while being able to observe from afar.  So provide tall scratch posts, clear the tops of wardrobes and empty shelves or mantelpieces.

When your cat is hiding, it’s best to try and ignore him so he feels safe in his hiding place.

One for all

Cats will use their litter trays when they feel safe to do so.  If cats don’t feel safe it can lead to stress-related problems such as urinary infections, constipation and inappropriate toileting.

Position litter trays away from windows, cat flaps, noisy appliances, doors, thoroughfares and busy areas so that your cats don’t feel as though they are being watched.

A good resources rule is to have one plus one extra for each cat in the home – for example, a three-cat home would need four litter trays – as this often helps to reduce the tension and competition between cats.

Bedtime

Cats need somewhere warm and safe to rest, free from danger and preferably off the ground.  You may find that your cat prefers to rest on your bed as it has a strong scent of you, but this cat may ‘defend’ your bed from other cats to demonstrate their ability to control resources.

Cats also use sleep or feigned sleep as a coping strategy at times of conflict so safe beds are important.  To avoid conflict, provide easy access to your bedroom, make sure the bed is raised off the ground and has your scent (boost this with a worn item of clothing).

Private areas

Cats need ‘time out’ from each other and from humans too.  This is usually in a dark, warm place that they feel is safe.  Places such as underneath beds, inside wardrobes, strategically placed cardboard boxes, cat carriers and hooded beds are ideal.  Remember not to disturb your cat when he is resting as cats need chill-out time just like us humans.

Scratching the surface

Some cats will scratch furniture or other surfaces more when in the presence of other cats, potentially to leave a scent mark to communicate with them.  Bring in a scratch post and place it in front of the area the cat has been scratching, and gently wipe their paws down the post to show them what to do.  Also, try leaving scratch posts near the cat’s resting areas as cats like to have a stretch and a scratch after they’ve had a sleep.  

Playtime

http://www.swellpets.co.ukPlay is an important activity for cats, giving them a chance to practice their natural hunting and chasing behaviours.  You might find that quiet or insecure individuals will not play in front of a more confident cat.  Play in multi-cat households, particularly play fighting, can escalate into something a lot more antagonistic. 

To avoid this, play separately with the insecure cat without another cat present.  When the cats are playing together, provide high perches for the cats to retreat to if play fighting starts to become too rough, and have some throw toys to hand to distract the cats should you need to.

It’s also a good idea to rotate the toys from time to time to avoid boredom and frustration.

 

Did you know? There are around eight million cats in the UK, with approximately 17 per cent of UK households owning at least one cat!*

 

This article appeared in the October issue of Your Cat magazine. My thanks to Chloe Hukin the editor of Your Cat for her kind permission in allowing me to put this on the Daily Mews website.    

The items featured in this article can be found at www.swellpets.co.uk

A Morning Kiss

A morning kiss, a discreet touch of his nose landing somewhere on the middle of my face.
Because his long white whiskers tickled, I began every day laughing.

Janet F Faure

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