We have all heard the old adage two cats are easier to care for than one, right? The idea behind this saying relies on the assumption that these cats will get along, will keep each other company, and will result in less needy pets.
For the most part, this is the truth. I have 3 cats, and overall they get along quite well with one another. What I have found over the years is that their behaviour (for better or worse) is largely dependent on how I approach the “big 3” issues surrounding multiple cat households.
Pay attention to these “big 3” hot topic issues, and I guarantee you will have happier and healthier cats as a result.
The Food Issue
It is completely normal to have one dominant eater in the home. Recognizing the dominant chow hound (er, kitty?) is easy – just look at the chubbier of the cats – the proof is in the pudge.
In a multiple cat household, it is difficult to control their consumption if they eat from the same bowls. The dominant eater will generally consume his portions, and part of the other cats’ portions, too. Thus resulting in one cat showing more mass than the others.
There are a few issues with this dynamic (if left uncontrolled):
– Your chubby cat is at increased health risks for obesity, diabetes, and many other health problems linked to over consumption of food.
– The submissive eater(s) in the home may not be meeting their nutritional requirements because some of their food has been hijacked up by the dominant one. Underweight cats may result if long term under-consumption continues.
The solution to this is quite simple, but is rarely the answer pet owners want to hear. The best way to control your cats’ consumption is to feed them separately, at designated feeding times. Otherwise, how else can you possibly control their intake?
Yes, it may take more time and planning on your part to do this – but it doesn’t take up nearly the amount of time you think it will. Work these feeding times in with your daily routine, and it will make a huge difference.
Believe me, giving insulin injections to an obese diabetic cat every day is far more time consuming.
The Territory Issue
Indoor cats may sleep upwards of 16 hours a day. Needless to say, lots of restless energy builds up if your kitties do not have proper outlets to exercise and play sufficiently.
Bored cats will always find something to do with their time. In many cases, this may mean picking on other cats in the house, using your sofa as their own personal pincushion, or turning your drapes into a state-of-the-art wall climbing facility.
It is normal for cats to play with one another – some play rougher than others – but bored cats may become territorial, and their prey drive may shift towards their brothers and sisters. This has the potential to cause a great deal of stress on the victim cat, and may affect their personality, health, and how they interact with everyone else in the home.
It is wise to have several play areas in the home, with at least one station on every floor. I would suggest beginning with cat towers; they come in virtually any shape and size you can imagine, at all price ranges. Cat towers are a great tool for cats to get exercise, and engage in constructive play time.
Once your kitties have their own multi-level oasis at their disposal, suddenly your furniture isn’t as appealing when it comes to play time.
A good rule to rule to abide by concerning multiple indoor cats is the more distractions the better.
From angry kitty to happy kitty – just add cat tower.
The Litter Box Issue
The reasons for a cat refusing to use a litter box are seemingly infinite. New additions to the family, kids going off to college, divorce, home renovations, moving.. the list never ends.
Cats walk to the beat of their own drum – we all know this. All cats have different criteria for what makes them a happy litter box user. What do you do when you have a fussy litter box kitty?
These are the first questions you should ask yourself:
Is the litter box clean enough? Is my litter box big enough? Am I using the right cat litter? Should I have more than one litter box?
Naturally, every household is different, and as a result, solving the litter box equation may be different from one home to the next.
If you have a kitty refusing to use the litter box, she will definitely let you know – usually by urinating or defecating beside the litter box, or on something of yours (like your sofa, clothes, or pair of shoes) – all in an effort to voice her displeasure with the current litter situation.
Ask yourself these four main litter questions, and be honest with yourself – scooping the litter box once a day may seem good enough to us, but may not be up to the high standards of a picky cat.
Make litter changes one at a time, and your fussy cat will leave you a report card – either in the litter box, or somewhere else in the home.
Did you pass or fail? It is all subject to experimentation.
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