Cats, the Very Particular Species
How to Handle a Multi-Cat Household
1. Knowing Your Cats: Personalities & Preferences
Why would knowing your cats' personalities and preferences matter? If you want peace amongst your household, it matters! There are plenty of different cat personalities but I have narrowed it down to three ranges:
- The safe zone 24/7 cat - they like to feel safe and comforted at all times. They don't explore often until they are absolutely comfortable in their environment. For these cats it is important to know their safe zones and respect it; also try and get the other cats to respect the safe zones for this cat as well. They usually stick with one room, or a couple spots throughout the house so make sure these spots are clean and you're conscious of them so you can avoid loud sounds or blocking these spots because it can cause panic in your cautious cat. They also probably won't like human contact other than you, their cat mom or dad, and rarely immediate family; but they will be the most loving cats towards you. What else could you ask for?
- The curious cat that likes safety but also considers exploring - These cats have safe zones as well but they can change often as they move around the house to explore at their own pace. They may like to be on the floor or a little above the floor but need a clear escape route. They may be open to tolerating people other than you but only as long as other humans show not to be a threat. For these cats make sure to give them cat toys throughout the house on the floor so they have an initiative to explore, and resist restraining them unless they feel safe. So keep the hugs and kisses for their safe zones!
- The adventurist cat - they love to explore! They are very social with you and with other humans. They are the center of attention or at least by the food table at any party you throw. They love to be higher than the rest so supply them with cat trees and cat shelves throughout the house to be in their own space as they explore.
Space is key to have a peaceful multi-cat household. So know your cats' personalities and preferences to supply it to them, one cat may only like floor level while the other top of the cat tree level. Maintain the spaces that your cats like and you won't have to worry about your furry children's happiness.
2. Litter! Litter! Litter!
Litter is crucial to have a cohesive multi-cat home—the rule is a litter box for every cat plus one. For example: I have two cats so I should have three litter boxes. Now those litter boxes can add up if you really love adopting cats! You can run into some space issues if you have a small place, limited areas to put the litter (not wanting the litter box in the kitchen, which is understandable), and sometimes you have a cat like I do that won't go to a litter box in any other room than the master bedroom. The things to consider if you can't have one litter box per cat plus one, which is the ideal recommendation: litter, size/design of the litter box, and placement of the litter boxes.
There are plenty of litter types like clay, crystal, wheat, and even newspaper. The type of litter is your preference, then you change the brands to make your cats happy. Based on my experience clay litter caused me to get bronchitis, while crystal and newspaper litter was out of my price range. Lastly was wheat litter which did not cause me to get sick, my cats enjoyed, and held the smell relatively well. The brand I use is Swheat Scoop.
If you can't get multiple litters than make sure you get a bigger litter pan to give your cats more space to feel like they have their own when doing their business. Make sure the litter pan is covered so they have even more privacy and clean it often to prevent revenge "accidents." The trial and error part of the litter pan is door or doorless. I suggest just getting one with a door that can be pinned or held back so if your cats don't like the door then you won't have to get a totally new litter box. Some cats don't like the door because it feels like a barrier to get in or when they do get in, it hits their butt so they feel attacked. As I said in the title, very particular creatures.
Placement of the litter boxes matters for your sanity and your cat's happiness. Always place a litter box in their safe place away from the rustle and bustle part of the house. This could be your bedroom, an office, or the bathroom. Make sure they can't be seen but they can see out of the litter pan, so consider that when buying those speciality litter boxes that have mini stairs; they may not like being in a totally covered litter box if they can't see a predator coming at them. Cats still have basic instincts to not get murdered like we all do but they definitely take it more seriously even if they have been in your house that has been proven safe for years.
3. Their Motivation to Wake up from Their 14-hour Nap: Food!
You must have a food bowl for each cat as they do not like sharing when it comes to food. You may be able to feed them in the same room but that is up to how they behave. Signs to look out for to consider separating them during feeding time are growling, hissing, and eating each other's food. Also keep their food away from the water they drink. Instinctively cats don't like their food by their water source. Cats already have a hard time consistently drinking water so make sure they always have clean water, and their water is separate from their food which could entice them to drink water and prevent kidney disease in the future.
Automatic feeders is something to consider that I have for my two cats and it has been one of my best investments. It can get pricey if you have more than one or two cats but helpful if they are on scheduled feeding like 7AM & 7PM, and as all cat owners know, they do anything they can to wake you up starting at 6AM to get their food fix. This has been a lifesaver on my sleeping until my alarm goes off instead of when my cats are over waiting. Automatic feeders have a tight space so you would have to get one for each pet. They can get pricey but are as I said totally worth it. The brand I bought from Amazon is called ARF Pets.
4. Consider your cat's past.
Cats have all experienced different things from humans, dogs, and other cats which can cause them to behave in certain ways that may make us consider them not social or not friendly. My cats had two different experiences before I adopted them. One of them named Gimpy had it rough, lived on the streets as a kitten, got hit by a car, and was brought in to be euthanized at an animal clinic I worked at as a veterinary technician. It was three months of treatment in the hospital before I could adopt him. He is now 6-years-old and still terrified of loud noises and humans. My other cat Neptune on the other hand was about 1-1/2-months-old when brought into the clinic I worked at and only suffered from ringworm, the most social kitten I ever met; it has been two years and she can still care less about humans and other cats but dislikes dogs since she never had an experience with dogs. It is important to consider what your cat has experienced and what their past was like to make sure not to stress them out or at least work slowly with them when introducing them to people or other animals.
Cats are very sensitive and particular creatures but they can be the most affectionate and playful pets if put in the right environment. In a multi-cat home it is important to consider their individual space that is cohesive with their personalities, everything about the litter, separation of food, and your cat's past to understand their behaviors. All these factors working together to bring your cats happiness and a stress free life will then bring you the most peace in your household.