Living with multiple cats isn’t always easy. Your cats’ wildcat ancestors were mostly solitary creatures who put a lot of time and energy into defending their territories. Even though your domestic cats live indoors where it’s cozy and safe, they still maintain those wildcat territorial instincts.
Of course, wanting your cats to love each other and bond isn’t a lost cause; we’ve all seen heart-melting photos and videos of cats cuddling. Whether your cats will ever get to that point will depend upon their individual personalities, but there are several things you can do to help calm their territorial instincts and nurture peace in your multi-cat household.
Image: Marnee Pearce : Flickr
#1 – Have enough resources to go around
One of the easiest ways to prevent your cats from feeling as if their territories are being threatened is to make sure they don’t have to compete for resources like food, water, the litter box, toys, scratching posts, and bedding. It’s important to have several of each resource and to have them dispersed throughout your home. If you have all of the litter boxes in one room, for instance, your more submissive cat can become very stressed out if a more dominant cat is laying in the doorway.
Image: Heath Alseike : Flickr
#2 – Reward good behavior
Where dogs are motivated by making their humans happy, cats are motivated by benefiting themselves. That’s why many behavior problems, like scratching the side of the couch, can be solved by simply adding an option (like a top-notch scratching post) that’s more desirable to your cat. Basically, we encourage good behavior in our cats by convincing them that their good behaviors will benefit them more than their bad behaviors.
With this in mind, start paying attention to when your cats are exhibiting the kinds of behavior you want to encourage and rewarding them. See them sitting near each other without a hissy-fit? Give each of them a treat.
Image: Houser Wolf : Flickr
#3 – Play separately
Interactive playtime is important for cats because it helps to keep them physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. If your cats aren’t bonded yet, however, playing with them together may be causing more problems because you’ll be creating a situation where they feel like they need to compete for certain toys.
Instead, make time each day to have individual playtimes with each of your cats. Slowly add duel-cat play sessions into your routine, but keep a close eye to be sure the playtime stays fun instead of competitive.
Image: Jim : Flickr
#4 – Share the brush
Cats have very strong senses of smell, and they use scents to communicate with each other. When cats are bonded they will create a “group scent,” an act you’re witnessing if you see your cats rubbing up against each other. In fact, you’re being included in this group scent when your cat headbutts you.
Sharing scents helps your cats become familiar with each other, and therefore comfortable around each other. You can help this process along by using the same brush to groom them. Before brushing, let each of them sniff the brush. Only use the brush to groom your cat if she has no adverse reaction to smelling your other cat’s scent on the brush. If she pulls away, hisses, or growls, respect her feelings and don’t force it.
Forcing a shared scent can cause even more stress and territorial issues. Instead, keep trying each day, only brushing the second cat once the reaction is positive or neutral.
Image: John Haslam : Flickr
#5 – Use a synthetic feline facial pheromone diffuser
When cats are comfortable they rub “happy” pheromones throughout their environments. That’s what’s happening when your cat rubs her cheek on your hand or on the leg of the dining room table– she’s essentially “tagging” things she has deemed to be safe, which allows her to relax and feel content in her environment.
Synthetic feline facial pheromones, like ComfortZone, can help territorial cats feel safe and relaxed in situations that would normally make them feel stressed out and threatened (such as co-habitating with another cat).