When it comes to our feline friends the general rule is that they are most at ease flying solo. This is because cats instinctively prefer their own company. This doesn’t mean you can only have one cat, since a well matched pairing can learn to live together quite harmoniously. However, opting for a multi-cat household can land you with a multitude of problems unless you are mindful of the adjustments you would need to make.
A large number of cat owners visit their vets each year because their cat is suffering from some stress related illness or strange changes in behaviour. This could be from a stress induced cystitis, over grooming to sporadic inappetence. In many cases this can be because of a discord within the cat family at home, a new cat to the neighbourhood or the passing of another cat in the family. Many pet owners who have had 2 kittens from the same litter find that as they hit 6 months to 2 years of age they suddenly don’t seem to get on. This is usually because of sexual maturity and that instinctive territorial nature starts to take a more prominent role.
So how do we help our cats to get along with one another or adapt to a new addition?
If you are having a problem with your current pride assess the changes. There is normally something that has triggered discord where previously there was none. Have you moved furniture, or had building work take place? Try to minimise stress such as this by planning ahead and using pheromone diffusers a few weeks before you make any changes. You can also purchase natural aids and supplements to calm and promote cat happy pheromones.
If your cats have reached sexual maturity and are not neutered this is something that will certainly help! Male cats have a tendency to fight with each other and a mix of sexes will result in matings, even siblings! Be warned and keep them separate until your vet can neuter them both.
Make sure you have separate feeding areas for each cat and lots of escape and hide away areas for them to keep their distance when the mood suits. Remember cats like to have access to hiding places that are high up so make sure you arrange furniture with this in mind.
One litter tray per cat plus one extra is the rule of thumb and make sure they are not placed next to doorways, or thoroughfares. Forcing them to share the same space is incredibly stressful and will lead to fights, bites or eventually stress related illness. This is especially true when there is no outdoor space to escape to. I’d therefore recommend that if you live in an apartment with limited space, then is probably more sensible to have one solo cat.
Many people ask me about introducing a new cat to the family home. Try to match the new cats age with existing cat(s) in the home. A new kitten will only torment an older cat and in turn become bored without the same level of interaction. If getting a new kitten get another one from the litter for it to play with so that your older cat is more left alone to nap as they so often prefer to do during the golden years. It is also important to do it slowly! Whilst it is tempting to make feline introductions straight away-don’t! Keep them separate so they have the chance to get used to one another’s smells and sounds and when the time comes reward positive interactions with treats and encouragement.
Paul Manktelow regularly appears in the media as one of the UKs leading veterinary surgeons. His accomplished career as a vet allows him to talk on a number of key animal subjects and he regularly provides valuable advice to pet owners across the UK. Appearing on TV shows such as Junior Vets, Animal Madhouse and This Morning, he also writes columns for the Times, Dogs Monthly and blogs on his popular website Vital Pet Health