Thursday, 9 January 2014


Sounds like something from an academic journal rather than one of my chatty posts, doesn't it. Don't worry, it isn't, though I do find it interesting how cats adapt to being put in with other cats, so I thought I'd look at mine and hope that other readers who have more than one cat will find it both interesting and relatable. 

Academics (general statement coming up) tend to poo-poo the observations of cat owners because they are observational and emotion-based rather than the results of the objective correlation of data. I'm not so sure that this is a valid point. Last year there was a programme on TV which had a team tag a select number of cats in a village and, when the devices didn't fall off, tracked them. What they came up with was nothing that a moderately experienced cat owner couldn't have predicted. My credentials are simply are simply this: I've lived in two multi-cats households and, while both validate my conclusions, I'm just using the current for examples.

One of the myths about cats is that they prefer their own company. Now, unlike dogs, they are not pack animals. This is certainly true. Not being pack animals means there is no hierarchical structure. There may, or may not, be one cat which is dominant but even this can be fluid. Certainly, some cats do not like other cats and much prefer the company of humans. I recently re-homed one from my house. Aoife, who had been with me for eight months, was fostering three one-month old kittens and a month later had two of her own, avoided interacting with other cats in the house and would hiss and even give them a slap if they got too close. Eventually this even applied to her own kittens now 7-8 months old, so I was pleased when she went off with a nice family to be their only cat.

Getting back to the point of this post, what I've learned is that, even  in a small house like mine, cats will have their own preferred areas, territory if you will, but there is considerable overlap and they are often willing to share it completely. It can also change over time. 

Sticking with cats that don't like other cats, I'll start with Max whom I've had for several weeks and is the newest arrival. He's also the only one I'm fostering who is currently up for adoption for that same reason. Max sticks completely to my living room. Most of the time, when not eating or using the litter tray, is spent on parts of my settee. Sometimes he'll curl up on my vacated computer chair. While he's not actively aggressive towards the other cats, he'll occasionally give them a warning hiss and mostly they leave him alone. Today, however, for a few minutes he and Aelfric stood just inches apart on a small square coffee table. Aelfric is a sociable cat but avoided looking at Max, was clearly uncomfortable, and quickly jumped down.

Foe Aelfric, being a sociable cat, the whole house is his territory, though he may spend more time in the kitchen, sharing the room primarily with Fifi, than anywhere else. 

Fifi's territory has changed several times since she arrived here and she was the first cat I took in, though not the only cat in the house there being two I'd brought with me). She started in the living room then, as other cats arrived, first moved upstairs to my book room as her primary domain, and then back downstairs to the kitchen which remains her preferred room despite it also being neutral territory. Fifi herself has changed, initially only really tolerating Aelfric to cuddling up to all of Aoife's kittens, one at a time, on a chair or cushion in the kitchen.

The three kittens, now 8/9 months old have no concept of territory. The whole house is theirs. They interact with each other constantly. After a nap this afternoon, I woke up to find two curled up together on one side of legs (I tend sleep on my side) with the third on the other. If Tiny makes a fuss of me (who is trying to attract my attention as I type this), one of the others is almost certain to join her. All three are comfortable with both Aelfric and Fifi.

Tiger, easily the largest cat in the house, could be dominant but isn't. He has been known to have a go at Aoife and Aelfric but lets the kittens push him out of the way if I've put down a tidbit for him. He mostly lives in my bedroom and when, as I've taken to doing, closed the door shutting out all the others when I go to bed at night, comes and cuddles up to me to be stroked as soon as my head has hit the pillow and does so again in the middle of the night after I've returned from the loo. He will venture downstairs but rarely for long.

So: any conclusions to be drawn from this?

Erm, yes, tentatively, maybe, bearing in mind that this is a small sample. Here they are: and if you think I'm stating the bleeding obvious then there's a very good chance you are absolutely correct and I'd be surprised if other people who live in a multi-cat household would come to different conclusions.

Cats actually are sociable animals that comfortably interact with others, probably as long as a food is plentiful, and live happily in a multi-cat household.

Some cats aren't, though they can tolerate other cats as long as they don't come too close.

Cats do need their own space, and food, and as long as they've got both can co-exist without friction with other cats.

That's it really. I'm sure an animal behaviourist could write tens of thousands of very long words on the subject but he still wouldn't say much more than I have.

No comments: