How to reduce stress in multi-cat households

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How to reduce stress in multi-cat households

Are multi-cat households more stressful? Having more than one cat in the home can lead to feelings of stress, frustration and issues with aggression. Here you can find tips on how to reduce stress, aggression and other multi-cat issues.

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Is it normal for cats to live with other cats?

Whilst the wildcat ancestor of our domestic cat would live a completely solitary life, our modern domestic cat can be more adaptable, depending on the availability of food and other important resources. This is known as a flexible approach to sociality; if there are enough resources to go around, cats are more likely to form close bonds, or at least learn to tolerate each other. Cats that get along, or at least tolerate each other, have lower levels of stress and less chance of aggression.

How can multi-cat households be made successful?

For the highest chance of a successful multi-cat household, we need to try our best to emulate a more solitary life in the home environment. This can be done by ensuring there are enough of the cat’s core resources, which translates to one resource per cat, plus one more for choice. The main resources are:

  • Food which should be given in a bowl that allows a cat to keep a lookout of their surroundings

  • Water which should be given away from feeding areas

  • Litter trays which should be kept away from areas of food and in a low stress location

  • Scratching posts

  • Sleeping areas which should ideally be raised and away from areas of conflict

  • Toys

  • High-up resting areas

Closely bonded pet parents are also an important resource for our feline friends! We can help reduce conflict and stress by providing opportunities to interact with each cat alone. A great way to reduce issues is by planning dedicated play-time with each cat, as well as play time with all the cats, to increase positive associations and reduce aggression. As toys can become a source of conflict, we can use multiple toys to play with the cats and ensure there are plenty of hiding places such as boxes or chairs available. High-reward treats can be given during these sessions to increase positive associations between the cats and reduce issues long term.

A pheromone based product such as Feliway Friends can also help reduce stress in multi-cat households. It works by emitting a synthetic copy of the cat appeasing pheromone, which is naturally secreted by a mother cat’s mammary glands after birth. It can help cats to become more accepting of each other, reducing conflict in the environment.

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This article was written by Tanith Lee RVN. Tan qualified as a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) in 2014. Since then she has worked in a variety of first opinion and referral clinics throughout the UK. She completed the ISFM Diploma in Feline Nursing with Distinction in 2016, and has completed the ISFM Advanced Certificate in Feline Behaviour. Tan is our Veterinary Practice Manager for FirstVet in the UK.

Published: 08/11/2021
Last updated: 04/01/2022

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