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Statistics show that while there are more dog-owning households in the U.S. than cat-owning households, the total number of cats outnumbers the total number of dogs…proof that many people live with more than one cat in the home. Statistics also show that over 50% of multi-cat households experience some degree of cat-to-cat tension or conflict. What’s a peace-loving cat parent to do? Here are some common sense tips, courtesy of veterinary behavior specialist Debra F. Horwitz, DVM, from Psychology Today.
According to Dr. Horwitz, feral cats will normally congregate together in a location where there is a reliable food source. In these groups, cats tend to pick and choose the feline companions they want to hang out with, and those they would rather avoid. The same is true in a multi-cat household. Not all of your cats will get along equally well.
The greatest source of conflict tends to be the introduction of a new cat into the home, but other stressful situations can also bring about feline conflict and undesirable behaviors like urine spraying, growling/hissing, stalking/chasing, and other more subtle behaviors which owners may not notice, like the dominant cat blocking the submissive cat’s access to food bowls, litter boxes, window sills, or even to you, the owner.
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If you notice any of these behaviors, changes to the home environment can help the cat being bullied. Make sure you have different locations for food, water, and litter around the house. One litter box per cat plus one extra is ideal. Create a “safe zone” for the submissive cat with the use of things like closed doors and baby gates. Make sure your cats have more than one good place to sit and look out of the window. Spend an equal amount of time playing and interacting with all of the cats in the home.
You can also experiment with calming pheromones like Feliway diffusers to calm tense multi-cat households. Some cat owners swear by the use of calming flower essences like Rescue Remedy. There are also “nutraceuticals” you can try…including dietary supplements and even cat foods with calming properties.