The image of the cat as a loner is long outdated. Many cat friends know that our fur noses appreciate the company of a conspecific. Especially young cats or house tigers should not be kept alone. So off to the shelter or breeder and adopt a second cat. Or? But the project “multi-cat household” is not always as easy as hoped.
You would like to have the best for your cat and her as soon as possible a conspecific to the side. Nevertheless: We humans do not like every person – even if we are the same age and come from the same small town. We often stayed alone in primary school for weeks until deep friendships were formed. And it wasn’t always love at first sight, sometimes it took a few attempts to get together with our best friends. It is the same with our cats: Not all cats are the same, there are different characters, experiences and preferences. If you are looking for a second, third or even fourth cat, you can save yourself and your animals a lot of stress!
The cat – a loner?
Maybe you have heard of the cat being a “solitary hunter”. But what does this mean anyway? Small cats like the African Falcon Cat or the European Wild Cat love to be alone most of the time. The reason is the size of the prey of the average small cat is more snack than full meal. A mouse or a young bird cannot be divided among several members of the pack, no group of cats would be satisfied with such prey. For this reason the cat hunts, hunts down and eats its prey on its own. Hunting makes up a large part of the cat’s life, so wild cats live alone most of the year. Nevertheless, small cats also have social characteristics: For example, the European wildcat, a close relative of our domestic cats, raises its young in a maternally organized community.
By the way: Also bigger wild cats like jaguars, lynxes and tigers hunt without conspecifics. The lion is the only big cat that lives and hunts in a pack!
Due to the contact with humans only little has changed in the character of the cat. Inside it is still quite independent small hunter. Nevertheless the living conditions of the fur noses have changed. This does not only apply to domestic cats, but also to strays and semi-wild cats. Although they live wild or with human support through feeding places, they are basically used to human society. That is why they often gather near feeding places. As long as sufficient resources such as food and space are available, problems rarely occur here. Nevertheless, wild cats do not become pack animals even in this temporary community. The “solitary hunters” do not organize themselves like a wolf pack or even subordinate themselves to an alpha animal. In contrast, the hierarchy of a group of cats is bound to place and time: Cat A is in charge of the barn in the morning, cat B in the afternoon – and cat C is mistress of the south side of the yard.
What does this mean practically?
Even if there are more dominant cats and those that are more subordinate, the social structure of a cat group is much more complicated than that of a pack of dogs. If you want to create friendship between cats, you should therefore proceed carefully and refrain from spontaneous purchases. Some basic conditions help to make the reunion of the cats a success!
One thing is most important: There must be enough resources available in any case, so that the harmonious cat community does not turn into a Cat-Fight. Practically this means that there should be no competition for food or a quiet resting place. A large, airy and above all clean litter box should also be available for the second cat. The same applies to the attention of the human family. If these basic conditions are fulfilled, there is no important reason against the purchase of a second cat.
Every cat needs at least:
- A quiet place to eat, where it can dine without disturbance
- Cats are desert animals – nevertheless fresh water should always be available
- A clean litter box, which is available around the clock without disturbances
- Cat-friendly scratching possibilities
- A retreat for sleeping and dozing
- Opportunities to let off steam in a playful way
- Time with her human
Are all requirements fulfilled? Perfect – now you can start your search for the perfect second or third cat!
In general, the motto “Equals and equals like to be together” also applies to cats. Calmer coat noses will be more likely to be annoyed by active fellow cats, while temperamental natures are more likely to find a connection to cats of the same character. Of course there are exceptions: Aggressive or poorly socialized cats will often not be happy with another cat of the same species – and certainly not if the other cat is as aggressive or insecure as they are.
If you are looking for a second cat for your quiet four-legged friend, it is best to look for a more sedate cat character. Active animals love a companion who plays and raves with them!
Young cats are alive. They want to be kept busy and get bored quickly. Mostly they get stupid ideas. Young cats are generally more flexible than older animals. They approach other cats more easily and it is often easier for them to get together than older animals. So if you want to take a second cat at home, it is often easier to let another young cat move to the already home young cat.
Older cats have a stronger character and are calmer than their younger counterparts. An older, quiet cat will be much more likely to get used to the arrival of a cat with a similar character than to an excited kitten. But please note: Cats are creatures of habit. If your cat has lived alone with you for 10 years or more and does not show any obvious desire for a conspecific, the arrival of another cat may cause more stress than pleasure.
There is also the question of race. Of course you should not use optical criteria if you decide to buy a second cat. Nevertheless, cats of the same breed often resemble each other very much in character – especially if they even come from the same breeder or are even related. Siblings are considered to be especially harmonious. They have a similar temperament and have grown up under the same conditions.
There is no better way! If you decide afterwards to accept a sister or cousin of your cat into your family, you should consider that both animals are complete strangers to each other. Belonging to the same breed and being closely related makes it easier to bring them together. Otherwise there is no guarantee that both animals will like each other!
How many cats do I actually want?
By the way: There is no perfect number of cats. Much more important is the dynamic of the cat group itself. An example is for example a young cat, which should keep your older cat company. Usually the senior cat will be rather annoyed by the clumsy approaches of a kitten. The arrival of two kittens, on the other hand, makes for more excitement, but both kittens can now occupy themselves with each other and romp, climb and play without your senior cat having to get involved. Observe the dynamics of your group of cats and think about what you would like to achieve with the arrival of another cat: Do you want to bring peace and quiet into the cat group or are you looking for a playmate for a certain animal? In the former case, the search for a quiet type of cat will help, while in the latter the principle of “like and like-minded companionship” applies.
The second cat moves in: Preparation
It’s time for the pickle! The perfect second or third cat has been selected and will move in shortly. As with us, the first impression is often worth its weight in gold – especially because animals react much more instinctively than we humans do. The reunion of several cats should be prepared so well. Proceed calmly, because overhasty mistakes can disturb the relationship between both animals in the long run!
First of all, it is a matter of furnishing your home in a way that is suitable for multi-cat households. A species-appropriate multi-cat household is basically no different from a species-appropriate house for one cat. You just offer everything in multiple versions, so that it does not come to the already discussed fight for resources: Enough feeding bowls, scratching and retreat possibilities are a must. With the cat toilets you ideally play it safe and offer one toilet for each cat plus an extra one. Mistakes in planning resources can be the cause of many problems when keeping several cats. The right slaughter plan is a must here and saves you and your cats a lot of stress!
If the second cat moves in, you should first separate the two animals. Try to keep each cat in a separate room. Both rooms should of course be equipped with a litter box, scratching post and the like. This will allow the new cat to get used to you and your family and the new environment without being unsettled by an existing cat.
The next step is to familiarise your cats with each other by “scent messages”. Carry toys, cuddly pillows and blankets from one room to another. Wipe cat 1 with a soft cloth and put cat 2 into the cat bed. These subtle messages help both animals become familiar with the scent of the other cat. Cats are very sensitive to odours. If the scent of the new cat is already integrated into your household’s own olfactory environment, this will make it much easier to bring them together.
Create friendship: The First Contact
Now it is time for the actual contact. As a rule, both animals will be much more nervous than you are: the domestic house cat will be confronted with an intruder in its territory. With the new cat, a completely new environment, unknown people and the owner of the feline territory come together. Try to stay calm yourself and avoid surprising or harassing one of the cats in any way. Give both animals space. None of the cats should be locked up or held in a transport basket. Instead, you should offer retreat possibilities. Usually contact with an unknown conspecific is not a problem for well socialised and mentally healthy cats. Depending on the experience and character of the individual cats, a friendly sniffing or complete ignoring can occur. The one or the other hissing or a warningly raised paw are definitely part of it, as well as an excited and bushy tail.
If the second cat has already spent a few days in a separate room, your existing cat probably knows what is going on. Open the room door, keep possible escape routes open for both animals and make sure that the second cat is not trapped in the separate room. The same applies if you release the second cat into your cat’s territory right from the transport basket. Here the newcomer will usually dare to go outside before your cat has lost its shyness of the transport basket.
Leave it to your cats to decide how to proceed. Withdraw, observe the group from a distance. In this way you give the cats already living with you the opportunity to sniff the newcomer in peace and quiet without feeling harassed. Give the cats time and intervene only in an emergency.
When problems occur
Such an emergency occurs for example when one of the cats reacts aggressively. This will most likely be the cat already at home – it wants to defend its territory against the intruder. But also anxious newcomers or those with a more aggressive nature can act aggressively. Here there are different gradations: Snarling and a warning paw are all right. As soon as a physical confrontation occurs you should intervene! In order to avoid getting into the focus of aggression and maybe getting hurt yourself, an acoustic signal like a loud clapping of hands or a loud “No!” can help to make both animals stop for a moment or even start to flee.
This is a stressful situation for both animals – so do not punish or threaten either of the cats, but go ahead and separate them for the time being. Give everyone involved one or two days to calm down and make the next attempt at contact less direct. One possibility is, for example, to reunite them at feeding time. Both house tigers will be calmer and more relaxed. They will probably be busy with their meal first before they realise that the other cat has not used the situation to their advantage.
If the direct contact goes on without any problems, there will be no more obstacles to cat friendship!
And if it doesn’t work
You have introduced both cats to each other for weeks, separated them again and again, tried again – and there are still problems? Maybe both cats live apparently quietly together, but one of them shows behavioural problems like urine marking, insomnia or aggressiveness? Here you can get help from your vet or an animal behaviour therapist. Sometimes the solution is simply solved by pheromone vaporizers like Feliway, sometimes it needs a little more help.
We wish you all the best for your life in a multi-cat household!