For any cat lover or would-be cat lover, one feline family member is both a necessity and a blessing. Two cats can double the pleasure. More than two of the capricious beasts, however, can be challenging and will require certain considerations to keep them happy and healthy, and your home in one piece.
Providing acceptable cat territories can be a significant issue in multicat households. If multiple cats don’t get along peacefully, they may divide the house into separate cat territories, with the most dominant felines sometimes freely invading the other cats’ territories. It is important to provide safe sanctuaries for the more submissive family cats. If a submissive cat prefers to remain in a single room away from other animals, make sure the cat has access to food, water and a litterbox in his/her room so that s/he doesn’t have to run a gauntlet of feline aggressors to access these necessities. Failure to provide for the submissive cat may result in inappropriate soiling or even stress-related illness.
Separate cat territories for multiple cats can be provided by such simple steps as leaving closet doors open, providing cat trees with shelves and cubbyholes, or even just leaving cat carriers or cardboard boxes available with fluffy towels inside. Do take care that dominant cats don’t corner or trap submissive cats in enclosed spaces.
Plan for a quarantine area in which to keep a cat who needs to be separated for any reason. This will be useful for a cat who is ailing or recovering from surgery, as well as when integrating a new cat into the multicat household.
Feeding multiple cats
Feeding multiple cats can present special challenges. In spite of the obvious convenience of free-feeding a multicat family, this is an inadvisable option for several reasons. First, not all cats will maintain optimal weights when allowed constant access to food. Feline obesity is a serious and pervasive problem which can be easily solved with more structured feeding practices.
Second, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to monitor food intake when feeding multiple cats free choice. Since lack of appetite is one of the first symptoms of many feline illnesses, it is extremely important to be able to quickly identify a cat who is not eating properly. There’s only one way to do that in a multicat family: remove the all-day kitty buffet and feed portioned, scheduled meals, instead. This will also make it possible to feed specialized diets to cats with specific medical needs.
Litterboxes and litterbox problems
In order to avoid inappropriate soiling and litterbox problems, it is important to provide multiple cats with multiple litterboxes in different locations around the house. The rule of thumb is to utilize as many boxes as there are cats plus one. Place litterboxes in easy-access, quiet locations for senior cats and in areas with open escape routes for timid cats. Provide open boxes, covered boxes, and/or oversized boxes for cats who prefer them. Try different litters in different boxes to satisfy each feline’s fancy. Most importantly, keep boxes very clean to prevent litterbox problems.
With a little forethought and a few adjustments, life with multiple cats can fill every day with that special enchantment only the feline species can conjure.