The Multi-Cat Household

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The saying goes “one cat just leads to another”. According to our latest survey, this holds true for the cat lovers visiting these pages. Apparently, over 70 percent of you have more than one cat and about 40 percent have three or more cats.

Watching your cats interact with each other can be a lot of fun. Yet, if your cats do not get along, life can be miserable for the cats as well as for the owner. To provide the best conditions for a good relationship between cats, there are three things you should do:

  • Introduce the cats properly (see our article about introducing cats).
  • Create the right environment for them to live together.
  • Deal with their confrontations in an appropriate manner.

The focus of this article is on the second item: how to set the stage so that your cats can live together with the minimum amount of friction.

Setting the Expectations for Life in a Multi-Cat Household

Before we address the issue of resource allocation — let’s put things in perspective. When you have more than one cat, you will probably witness an occasional cat spat from time to time. Our aim is not to prevent cat confrontations altogether, but rather decrease the frequency and the intensity of hostilities so that the cats enjoy a better quality of life.

Don’t expect all of your cats to necessarily adore each other. You may see Ying-and-Yang cuddling among your cats, especially if the cats have been brought up together since kittenhood. Then again, you may not. The cats are more likely to just co-exist peacefully in the same territory. Whichever the case, even in the best of circumstances, the occasional hiss is perfectly normal and appropriate. Your cats are just being cats. Just think – don’t you ever hiss or spit at the humans who share your territory?

Manage Your Cat Resources Wisely

If you want to have several cats living under your roof in relative peace, you need to make sure that there’s enough of everything to go around. Never make your cats compete for resources, whether that be food, litter pans, water bowls, toys it is this type of competition that is usually the cause of many cat fights. And this can and should be avoided.

Living Space in A Multi-Cat Household

Make sure your cats have plenty of room. Overcrowding will stress them. It is a sure-fire recipe for hostility among your cats.

The big question would be “how crowded is too crowded?” There is no simple answer. Some situations can be overly-crowded. If you’re keeping ten cats per room then that is probably too much. However, throwing a figure of cats per room or per square feet can oftentimes be misleading.

A lot depends on the cats themselves. Some cats require more personal space, while others are relatively immobile and don’t mind other cats bouncing around them.

Another factor to consider is vertical space. If the cats are allowed and encouraged to utilize the upper level of the room then they have more space than the sum of the square feet of floor tiles. Try adding cat furniture, shelves and climbing ramps that will make their territory larger without adding a new room to your house.

Litter Boxes in A Multi-Cat Household

Make sure you have at least one litter box per cat. Then add another litterbox.

This doesn’t mean that each litter box is used by one specific cat. On the contrary, the cats will probably share. It does mean that no cat should have to wait in line to use the litter box. If your cat needs to go and finds that the litter box is occupied, she may have to resort to your carpet instead. And who knows? If she likes it, she might just keep going there.

While you may be lucky enough to have your cats share a smaller number of litter boxes, unless you have enough litter boxes, you are risking litter box avoidance down the road. The rule for calculating the number of litter boxes is the number of cats plus one.

For more information about litter boxes, check out our articles on litterbox-care and litterbox-problems.

Food & Water in A Multi-Cat Household

Make sure your cats never have to compete for food or water. Have enough food and water dishes for all. Depending on the number of your cats, you may want to consider setting up several feeding locations. Preventing the cats from crowding around the dishes will help to minimize mealtime aggression, and will also relieve stress. Be sure and feed the most dominant cat first. That will also go a long way in easing tensions that sometimes result during feeding time.

Attention and TLC

The golden rule for cat care is: “to each by her or his needs”. Make sure you spend quality time with all of your cats both individually and collectively, while being sensitive to their specific requirements. There is no need to divide your TLC equally. Fulfilling each individual needs will depend on what the cat desires, not what you want. Some cats may crave attention and petting, while others may be shyer and prefer a more distant interaction.

You should become the expert on the different needs of your cats.

Comments? Leave them using the comment section below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

3 comments on “The Multi-Cat Household

Babypaws August 7, 2018
chloeg said:
thank you for the article. I have four kittens ranging from 10 months to 6 weeks.i have already done most of what you suggested.  the little ones just like a quick cuddle and off they go.The eldest loves being groomed and the 2nd loves playing fetch.Iv got many litter boxes in four different rooms  but they seem to have a preference for 2.i clean all boxes 2-3 times a day.After reading your article,I know Im on the right track to keeping my babies happy.Thanks 
Glorajh . Wow, your post was from 2014 but I’m hoping your still on the site....I just joined a few months ago and when reading your post I had to laugh because it sounds like we are in the same boat...I have six cats inside along with s newly born kittens. My story is a lot like yours. I have my house divided into sections. I love all of days are busy cleaning, feeding them but I do enjoy watching and petting them. How are things in your household now? Do you still have as many?
gloriajh September 29, 2014
We have 12 living inside with us - with various health and feeding issues - so our house has "cat zones".     Five of the cats are still mostly feral-like which contributes to additional considerations. We also take care of 5 feral-born that live on our property and in our garage. If I could bring them inside I would!   Inside, we installed screen doors to separate the zones with a total of 5 zones.  Sometimes some of the cats are allowed to be in other zones depending on feeding schedules.   Litter: One zone has an outside enclosure for 3 of the feral-born cats and this zone has one/32 gal tub for the litter.     The remaining 4 zones have only 6 litter containers for 9 cats because I simply have no more room to have 3 additional containers.(!)     I am continually cleaning out the litter containers to keep them "fresh". One of our female feral-born cats likes privacy with her bathroom activities so I've had to locate a container in a more "private" area.   I definitely recognize the advantages of having one litter container per cat, but we do what we can with the resources we have.   Food and Water: Separate food dishes for all.  Since I serve mostly canned or pocket foods I accumulate numerous food dishes for disinfecting and washing.  My husband purchased restaurant-style saucers and bowls to help with this food distribution.  The outside cats usually get served on one large platter and a few individual plates.  Inside water containers are in abundance filled with spring water - no chlorine or Fluoride.    TLC: Naturally - the feral-born only watch as I pay attention to the others.  I hope they are learning as they watch me brush, carry, stroke, and play with their brothers and sisters.   Our Three "original" cats share our bed and require more attention than the others.   One of the cats - Buddy - was diagnosed FeLV + and in a room all by himself.  I have spent at least two hours with him each night for the 4 years he's been with us.     We have no close friends, or relatives that visit.  Now that the house is fully occupied by cats and two human adults we have no room for visitors.  Since I have no one that I can count on to take care of the cats, I don't travel unless it's an emergency.  It's difficult to trust just anyone to care for them, especially for Buddy.     This is a lot of work and I often wonder what I've gotten myself in to. :)  Never-the-less, I am really enjoying each, individual cat as I observe the different personalities and abilities - each one is treasured!
chloeg November 27, 2013
thank you for the article. I have four kittens ranging from 10 months to 6 weeks.i have already done most of what you suggested.  the little ones just like a quick cuddle and off they go.The eldest loves being groomed and the 2nd loves playing fetch.Iv got many litter boxes in four different rooms  but they seem to have a preference for 2.i clean all boxes 2-3 times a day.After reading your article,I know Im on the right track to keeping my babies happy.Thanks 

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