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Multiple cat households

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Multiple cat households can be rewarding places for your cats to live.  Having more than one cat or getting two cats at the same time can be beneficial, because the cats can play together and provide each other with both physical and mental stimulation.  Although cats are often considered to be quite independent, in reality they are social animals.  Understanding feline social structure can be very helpful, especially if you have two or more cats.

Cats are family-oriented creatures, but they are often intolerant of outsiders and are less likely to live harmoniously with an unrelated cat than with a litter mate.  If you are thinking of getting two cats at the same time, litter mates make the best housemates.  However, young kittens from different litters usually also get along well if you get them at an early age.  The younger the kittens are, the more easily they will accept each other as part of their social group.

If you have one adult cat, you should think carefully about introducing another cat.  Many cats are hostile to new cats, and you may be in for a somewhat lengthy adjustment period.  In some cases, certain cats never become playmates and live in mutual indifference or mere tolerance.  However, cats that have been sufficiently socialized to other cats do benefit enormously from feline company.

There is little information about the relative compatibility of unrelated cats.  In one research study, adult cats were more likely to accept the introduction of a younger cat.  When an adult cat was introduced to another adult, a cat of the opposite sex was more likely to be accepted.  When the cats were of the same sex, two male cats were slightly more likely to be compatible than two female cats.

Regardless, you should remember that feline relationships are usually between pairs of cats. Just because your cat liked one cat doesn't mean that it will accept a different cat.  Some cats are naturally easy-going and friendly; others are timid and shy; still others are very assertive and active.  These personality differences can have a profound effect on how two cats get along. Attempting to match personality types can be very helpful when seeking out another feline companion for your cat.

When introducing a second cat, remember that cats are territorial animals and that each cat will need to establish its own space within your home.  It may help to provide the new cat with a separate housing area at first and slowly allow the cats to come into contact when they are likely to be occupied, distracted, or enjoying themselves (such as at feeding or play times). Making sure that key resources, such as food, shelter, and social interaction with family members, are available in sufficient amounts can help prevent conflict between the cats.


Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhD and Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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