How to Keep The Peace in a Multi-Cat Household

Throughout history, cats have been held in high esteem, adored, and even worshipped, so it's no surprise multi-cat households have existed for eons.

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Among the most obsessed and prominent cat lovers for whom one cat was not enough were the Ancient Egyptians, writers Mark Twain (19 cats) and Ernest Hemingway (42 cats), and many other renowned authors, poets, and artists; as well as Empress Catherine the Great, Pope Paul II, and presidents of the United States, Abraham Lincoln and Calvin Coolidge, whose multiple felines called the White House their home.

If you have a passion for cats and share your home with a more modest two, three, four, or even more cats, you are among millions of Americans who share their hearts and homes with multiple cats. Carefully managed multi-cat households can hum along nicely like a well-oiled machine — most of the time. In multi-cat households, the key is knowing how to avoid cat disagreements.

It's truly distressing when your cats are not getting along, so if you're wondering how to keep the peace, read on to discover tips and ideas that will help keep your multi-cat household purring along smoothly.

The most important guidelines for multi-cat households

The number one rule for multi-cat households is to spay and neuter all your cats. If this is not a possibility for any reason, designate separate rooms for male and female cats.

Second, eliminate stress and competition (we'll get into that below).

Third, keep your cats' environment meticulously clean.

Fourth, learn to read cat body language, which is your best heads up on how your cats are feeling at any given time.

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Make sure you have enough litter boxes

Multi-cat households need enough litter boxes so that every individual cat has his own, plus one extra. So if you have four cats, you need five litter boxes. Also, the type of litter you use should be accepted by all the cats, and if you find one cat is going outside the litter box, it could be that cat dislikes the litter, or it could alert you to a health issue. Sometimes, you will need to experiment with different clumping litters; including clay, pine pellets, pine dust, corn cob, and others to determine which works best for all the cats.

Dirty litter boxes are stressful for cats. In addition to scooping each litter box daily, you will need to thoroughly clean all the litter boxes at least every two weeks, or more often depending on how many cats you have and refill the box with fresh litter. Keep in mind, that the litter box itself and the litter scoop should be replaced at least once per year, says Dr. Debra Primovic, DVM.

For households with many cats, you might also consider a self-cleaning litter box to do some of the work for you.

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Plenty of sleep and relaxation space

In multi-cat households, make sure you have plenty of sleep space because so much of a cat's day is spent relaxing and napping. Towel-lined baskets, boxes, and cat-dedicated blankets and pillows on your sofas and chairs provide lots of cozy lounging and sleeping space where each cat can be on her own or cuddling with her favorite feline housemate.

Mealtime essentials

Every cat in multi-cat households should have their own food bowl to prevent competition during mealtimes. Having several food bowls and bowls of water throughout your house is ideal. Self-feeding works well, too, keeping dry food available at all times — hungry cats are cranky cats.

Bonding one-on-one

Many cats crave attention, while others don't need as much. Getting to know your cat through one-on-one bonding sessions is the key to understanding each of your cat's personalities and needs for affection and attention. Making each cat feel special is essential because when you have a number of cats, little nuances can be missed — cats can feel left out and a stressed-out cat can be overlooked. If an animal is brought home from a shelter, for example, only through spending quality time individually with him will you really understand his unique needs, thus be better equipped to provide what he needs to thrive in his new multi-cat household.

Make playtime a priority

Cats need enrichment and active play is a priority, especially in multi-cat households. Make sure you have enough toys for all your cats, and interactive toys like feather wands are perfect for spending quality time with you. For more detailed information, check out our article on how to keep your cat mentally stimulated.

Cat trees, vertical space, and scratching posts

Cat lovers know that cats love vertical space as well as little hideaways. For an ideal multi-cat environment, install cat shelves and perches for climbing and lounging. Cat trees are available in amazing configurations and provide the perfect vertical space for your cats. Rope and sisal-covered trees also provide the much needed scratching posts and ensure you have enough vertical space to go around so that every one of your cats has a perch and a post to call her own.

Keep cat hair and odor in check

Cats are fastidious creatures, and while many of us are as well, managing multi-cat households takes extra work. All that cat hair and odor needs to be kept in check.

And like you, cats love freshly laundered bedding and pillows so you'll need to keep their cat beds clean and fresh. If they play with soft toys like fabric mice or anything that's washable, ensure you wash the toys regularly. Also, keep food and water bowls sparkling clean at all times.

Depending on how many cats you have, you will be spending a portion of every day morphing into a cleaning ninja and vacuuming often because cats also love clean floors, carpets, and generally like their whole environment to be clean and fresh-smelling otherwise they can become stressed.

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Pheromones, catnip, and a pocket full of treats

To keep your cats' environment tranquil, you might consider synthetic cat pheromones in plug-in diffusers that replicate a cat's own "happy pheromones." Keep in mind that we don't have hard evidence that synthetic pheromones are effective. However, some people report success with them. Alternatively, good, old-fashioned dried catnip works just fine, too.

A pocket full of tasty treats comes in handy when you live with multiple cats. Arguments can flare up quickly between cats if they do become stressed. You may be able to deflect their irritation and quell their anger by softly calling them, then tossing some treats their way so that they focus on snacking, and often forget what made them mad in the first place.

Conclusion

Stress triggers mild disagreements and full-on catfights in multi-cat households. Consistently keeping the peace in multi-cat households requires keeping stress at bay by cleaning your cat's environment thoroughly on a daily basis, giving each of your cats ample attention, eliminating competition for food, toys, and litter boxes, offering enough playtime, and providing adequate vertical space for all your cats to hang out and, sometimes, chill out.

And, importantly, you should thoroughly learn your cats' body language, an early warning alert for problems, so you can step in and avert a disagreement.

Creating a tranquil atmosphere is important and synthetic cat pheromones or catnip keeps your cats in their happy place. And, just in case, keep a pocketful of treats.

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