The resource rule: keeping your kitties content in multi-cat households
Perhaps you’re thinking of introducing a new cat to your existing kitty clan, or perhaps you’re starting from scratch, about to embark upon a multi-cat adventure. Sadly, it’s not as simple as bundling multiple cats into one house and sitting back to observe a happy clan, living alongside one another in harmonious kitty paradise. So avoid claws flying and hissy fits, take on board these top tips.
Is multi-cat really the way to go?
It helps to ask yourself why you’re opting for multiple cats. If you have an existing cat who you feel is bored and in need of company, you will likely find that the addition of feline friends will only cause unexpected and unnecessary stress. A better way to attack this issue is to enrich your cat’s life and environment with fun and toys and attention. If you are adamant that you are a two-cat kind of a household, then two kittens from the same litter will usually grow up happy in each other’s company and actually provide much companionship and entertainment.
The resource rule: one per cat, plus one
So you’ve found yourself with two or more cats, for whatever reason. And now it’s about doing all that you can to ensure harmonious living. A major cause of stress to cats can be a need to fight for resources such as food, water and the litter tray. Competition for these things can leave them in a constant state of worry; chronic stress is no good for anyone, cats included. There is however, a handy rule of thumb that can be applied to just about all resources required by cats; provide resources in quantities of one per cat plus one extra.
Food and water
Provide one bowl per cat plus one of each of these (if you’re adopting an ad lib feeding strategy) because having to compete for food or water can be deeply distressing. It’s not just about quantity; place each bowl in a different room or environment. Like people, cats differ as to whether they enjoy eating in company or would rather be left to their own devices. You will likely find that each cat adopts their favourite snack bar and watering hole.
Top tip: keep food and water separate from one another too. It has been suggested that cats won’t drink from water positioned near to their food. In the wild, where food is likely to be an animal carcass, the degrading meat would pollute a water source rendering it unfit for drinking. Just a thought…
Keep it clean!
The resource rule applies to litter trays too. One per cat plus one; location is key also. For the exhibitionists amongst your feline friends, a litter tray in view of the rest of the household might be okay. But what about the more shy and discerning type? Give these cats shelter for their ablutions, providing a litter tray with a lid. Cats are clean freaks and dirty facilities are likely to stress them out. Keep all litter trays free of dirt as much as possible.
Protect your furniture and have contented kitties
It is a perfectly natural urge for a cat to scratch items with their claws, and not just for claw health. Scratching releases pheromones which calm and de-stress a cat. So go with it, but provide many designated places to do so.
Top tip: Use Feliway spray to attract them to their scratching posts, so they know where they’re meant to scratch.
Don’t be a space invader
Even the most fun-loving of us need our own space from time to time and pets are no different. Cats are individuals and some appreciate more time alone than others. Provide covered hidey holes using igloo beds or a covered crate to create the perfect get away. Again, when it comes to beds, the resource rule comes into effect, one per cat, plus one.
Finally, a Feliway feline is a friendly feline
Feliway is an appeasement product that uses a synthetic version of a naturally occurring feline pheromone to soothe and reassure cats. It can really ease tensions in a multi-cat household, and used alongside the above described methods, it can help everyone get along, reducing stress.