Getting a new cat can be a very exciting thing to do but it does pose some risks. As an owner, you want to provide a good quality of life for your pet. Whilst adding an extra cat to your household may add extra companionship, it could lead to stress and fighting if not managed correctly. Will your cats get along? Will your cats’ behaviour change? Could your cats develop any stress-related illnesses? Should you get a cat or kitten? Should it be a male or female? So many things to consider! So take a look at the rundown our team have put together…
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Cats are naturally solitary animals meaning they usually like to live alone. In the wild, cats mark their territory by scent. This helps cats to know where others live, and where each cat hunts for food resources; helping them to stay away from other cats’ territories. That said, some cat colonies have formed and they live together constantly in order to help them hunt. And as years of domestication have occurred, we have witnessed many multi-house cat households that work… However, we have also witnessed some severely devastating results following cat fights as a result of multi-cat households.
What are the risks?
Cats normally have a very high arousal level and can be stressed out easily. They like to spend most of their time asleep. If there is any change to their environment they can become stressed and develop stress related illnesses. One of the most common stress related diseases is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. This disease is thought to be caused by the high levels of stress hormone cortisol circulating in their body. This alters the other hormones that affect water retention. Which causes them to pass urine in inappropriate places and at inappropriate frequency. It may also impact the quality of the bladder lining (especially the glycosaminoglycans), and stress itself seems to trigger a form of “neurogenic inflammation” in the bladder wall, even in the absence of any physical “damage”.
Other complications can include fights, of course, but often one cat simply moves out, to find their own home. This is, sadly, often the result of a rushed or inappropriate introduction of the new cat.
How to manage the risks of introducing new cats to each other?
Creating a house suitable for a multicat household is essential. Cats like to hide; so you should make sure there are adequate hiding places such as boxes, blankets, or cages in the house. Ideally, these hiding places should be on different height levels. You should have more water bowls, litter trays, and feeding bowls than the total number of cats. These should be located in different areas in the house. Scratching poles are a good way of keeping your cats’ claws blunt whilst also providing entertainment for them in the house.
Routine is important. Keeping things as similar each day as possible. For example, feeding time, bedtime, wake up time, noise level and bed location can help your cat move in. New people, new social situations, and new noises can be stressful and should be minimised.
Make sure you have enough time to make sure both cats have a smooth transition in their new lifestyles. Ensuring you have the time and patience to help both cats gradually socially interact will help both cats to feel more comfortable with each other and also with you. Your patience and time will be challenged that little bit more, if you are introducing a new pet into a family which already has other animals or young children.
Initially, you should keep one cat in one room whilst the other cat is in another area, giving the new cat an opportunity to explore their new home. The new cat should become familiar with the original cat’s scent prior to physically meeting the cat.
What should I expect when introducing my cats?
Some cats will change their behaviour to deal with the new cat moving in. Common behaviour changes could include spending more time outside, spraying, and going to the toilet in unusual places. Once again, a gradual introduction is the key to the cats coming to an accommodation where they can either live together or, at least, “time share” so they don’t need to meet if they don’t want to.
Which cat should I choose?
Different cats have different behavioural traits and choosing breeds and age groups that are less likely to clash is wise. Think about the personality of your current cat and how they act around other cats. Will they appreciate sharing your attention or being woken up during a nap? Think about if your cats are going to be kept indoors or outdoors – it is difficult to have a cat flap if you only want one of your cats to use it.
Older cats are likely to struggle with the integration of a kitten due to the energetic nature of a youngster, which may cause too much stress to a senior cat. You do not want to have two extremes on the personality chart, a very assertive cat may dominate and try to fight a very quiet cat too much. Ideally, you would want two cats of a similar personality to live together, e.g. two playful, outdoor cats.
Vaccinations are always recommended, but if you are going to have 2 cats living together, they are essential and testing for infectious disease is needed. This is important because your cats will mingle and if you have been told to keep your cat indoors due to a disease it carries, you should not be encouraging another cat to move in.
If you have 2 cats living together or even 2 cats that will live outside, you should neuter the cats as otherwise, you may end up with lots of extra kittens. Once the cats are neutered, it does not matter whether you mix males and females together.
For every new pet, we’d usually recommend taking out pet insurance for each pet. Insurance is important because pets get ill in the same way that humans get ill. Illness is normally unpredictable and can be very expensive. Having insurance helps to prevent large sums of money from leaving your account as the insurance company will pay out above a certain value.
What should I do if they do begin to fight?
If for any reason a fight between your cats breaks out and one cat receives a bite wound, you should ensure they see a vet immediately. Cats’ mouths have lots of bacteria in them, meaning cat bites often lead to abscesses forming which commonly need veterinary attention. Do not try to break up a fight with your hands – while in an emergency it may be necessary to throw some water over the cats or distract them by shouting, if at all possible, just give them an escape route out into another room. One will usually retreat, and you won’t have made matters worse by scaring them both. And always be sure to keep your hands away from them as you may get injured.
Living in a multi-cat household can be managed providing you are prepared from the start and ready to intervene should you need to. For any further advice, please contact your vet!