Living with Multiple Cats

" Cats are like chocolates, it's hard to have just one!"

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Cats are creatures of habit, they like routine and can be easily stressed with changes in their routines or environment. Cats can also be very territorial over their space, toys, food, litter and their humans!

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Here are some tips on living with multiple cats:

Pheromones

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To help reduce some of the stress associated with living with multiple cats the use of pheromones like Feliway and Feliway friends diffusers are recommended. These diffusers can help reduce the stressors in the environment and help your cats feel calm and safe in their home. Pheromone diffusers can help with Intercat aggression, issues with territory, urine marking etc. These pheromones are designed to mimic the scents and pheromones released from the mother cat as well as the feline facial pheromone that cats release when they are happy and rub their cheeks up against walls, humans, other pets and objects when they are happy, thus making them feel safe and secure in their environment.  

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Designated space for each cat

Even in households where multiple cats have been living together long term and are familiar with each other, it is always great for each cat to have an individual safe space for them to be able to go to if they want to have some time alone and not be bothered by other cats. Cats don’t often like to share their things and not having their own space to enjoy can cause some Intercat conflict and redirected aggression in the environment. Make sure that you have multiple cat perches and scratching posts with different levels, cat beds and areas for them to hide for a big cat nap and some quiet relaxation.

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Feeding time

Because cats like routine try meal feeding vs. free feeding this can help with monitoring if your cat is eating and how much, prevent over eating, as well if you need to give your pet medications with their meal. With multiple cats you want to make sure that you have more than one food bowl. Cats can be very picky over their food bowls, and if one cat is easily intimidated by the other, they may not feel comfortable eating in the same area.

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Sometimes one cat may try to steal the others food and this may cause some Intercat conflicts in the household. Try having separate feeding stations for your cats so that they can enjoy their meal in comfort without having to protect their territory or quickly gobble their food. Microchip feeders are also a good idea for cats that are on special diets or if another cat is eating their food you can program it to only open for one cat. Sometimes cats can be picky about the shape, size, depth and make of their feeding dish. Try using ceramic or stainless steel to prevent feline acne caused by bacteria on plastic surfaces. Some cats may prefer their dishes to be elevated while others may prefer food puzzles or feeders that they have to hunt/forage for their meal. No bowl feeding systems and food puzzles are also great for slowing down those kitties that scarf down their food too quickly as well as provides them with some mental/physical stimulation.

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The scoop about kitty litter

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As a rule of thumb cat owners should have one litterbox per cat plus one. So, if you have two cats, you should have three litterboxes. Location is important to cats as well, make sure that there is at least one litterbox on each level of the home so that Fluffy doesn't have to travel multiple levels to find a litterbox. Also, litterboxes should be placed in a quiet area of the home, be sure that it is not located in a high traffic area as cats enjoy their privacy when using the litter. Loud noises and commotion may make your cat feel annoyed, stressed or scared when using the litter. Cats are also very clean creatures; they do not usually like to eliminate in the same area where they eat. Make sure that their litterboxes are in a different area than their feeding stations. Because cats are very particular and clean animals, make sure to clean litterboxes often, sometimes cats will not use litter if it hasn't been scooped the previous day. If you can scoop litterboxes at least once daily that would be recommended and change the complete litter box weekly and wash any excess dust out. Some cats will not use the same litter as another cat in the household, so it is best to have multiple boxes for them to choose. Cats will often refuse to use their litter if it hasn't been scooped recently. How many times have you scooped your cats litters and they jump right in to the fresh box right after you've just scooped it? Some cats are sensitive about scented litters and some types that are very dusty. Find a litter that works best for your kitty. Another big thing for cats is covered versus uncovered. We know that litterboxes are not pretty and we don't want guests staring at or smelling the presents that Fluffy just left in the litter, however most cats prefer uncovered litter boxes. Sometimes we may see Fluffy squatting on a rug or somewhere she is not supposed to because she doesn't like to be closed inside her litter box. Make sure that the box is big enough Fluffy to get in comfortably and turn around with ease. Cats like to see what is going on around them so that if there is a threat, predator or another cat getting ready to pounce they can see it coming and escape quickly.

Play time

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Boredom in cats may result in Intercat conflicts, they may become destructive, develop behavioral issues, and possible redirected aggression if not stimulated in their environment. This is why it is suggested to provide some special bonding time daily to help your feline friends stay happy, feel safe and also strengthening the bond between you and your cats. Does your cat have a favorite catnip toy? perhaps enjoy chasing the laser pointer? Some cats are quite playful, others love to cuddle or grooming and some just like the interaction of just their favorite person paying attention talking to them. Figure out what type of play or attention your kitty enjoys. Then try to engage in some separate play time doing something that you know that they enjoy and provides them with enrichment. There are many different types of interactive toys, laser pointers, scratching posts, tunnels, food puzzles, etc. that can keep your cat active, stimulated and a happy kitty.

Confessions of a Cat Lady

Is Fluffy really all fluff or is there some extra weight hanging there from all those long winter cat naps?

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Kittens are little fuzzy fire balls of energy! They play hard, sleep hard and eat lots in between. Because they are growing and burning all of their energy, they require a high calorie kitten food. When your cat is spayed/neutered the extra hormones that help burn off all of those calories are gone, most cats will begin to slow down more as they mature and age causing them to be more prone to extra weight gain. Ask your veterinarian what diet would be best based on your cat’s age, lifestyle and current body condition.

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Is my cat Overweight?

Your veterinarian will access your cat’s body condition score (BCS) at each annual checkup. You can try  checking your pets BCS at home by simply running your hands over your cat’s sides gently, If you can feel their ribs by using light pressure, your cat is likely at an ideal body condition. If you need to apply more pressure to feel your kitty’s ribs then you kitty may be overweight. Ask your veterinarian about your cat’s weight at their next checkup.

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Causes of weight gain?

There are many different things that can contribute to weight gain in cats such as, lack of exercise, improper nutrition, diet, over eating, and certain health issues can be the cause of weight gain. Because it is in a cats nature to be curious, some more than others, they may require lots of environmental enrichment. Lack of environmental enrichment causes cats to become under stimulated, bored, or even depressed. Boredom can cause cats to over eat, which is why our veterinary professionals strongly recommend monitoring and measuring your cat’s daily food intake and try to limit how many treats that your cats get daily, as too many high calorie treats can contribute to feline obesity.  Your veterinarian can help you by calculating how much food your furry feline should be eating to help maintain his/her health. By measuring out and portioning your cat’s food by meal feeding helps in preventing weight gain caused by over indulgence in cats that are free fed.  Just like us, Diet has a great impact on your cat’s body condition. Ask your veterinarian to help pick a diet that works best for your cat’s current lifestyle and body condition score.  A diet that is ok for one cat may not be ok for another based on their activity levels/lifestyles or predisposition to diseases that can cause weight gain.

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How excess weight can impact your cat

Just like people, excess weight can have a psychological effect on cats as well.  If a cat is overweight they may become less engaged in physical activities like playing, grooming, interacting/socializing with other pets or people in the household, causing their environmental enrichment to suffer. They can develop depression and anxiety, resulting in behavioral or urinary issues.  They often spend even more time sleeping and less time grooming, which can result in skin issues due to stress and lack of grooming. Cats are naturally “clean” animals and focus a great deal of time on grooming. If your cat isn’t grooming their hair may become dull, greasy or flakey, as well as their hair may become matted causing skin irritation and possible skin infections.  Excess weight also puts more strain on their bones and joints which can cause them to become inflamed, resulting in pain, developing arthritis and other serious health issues

How can I help my cat lose weight?

Impossible? Don’t worry it is actually easier than you think! Just like people diet and exercise are the best ways to keep your kitty fit and happy.

First you want to make sure that your cat is up to date on his/her annual exam and weight loss is recommended by your veterinarian. Diet is a big issue with weight gain, ask your vet before deciding to put your cat on a diet to make sure that the diet is suitable for your cat’s needs, also to help you set a goal for your cat’s weight loss. Your veterinarian can help calculate your cats daily calorie needs for weight loss or to maintain a healthy weight based on their body condition score and current lifestyle. If giving treats be sure to include the calorie count into the daily calories that your cat is recommended for each day. There are a variety of puzzle toys and no bowl feeders, where your cat has to find the food and “work” to get his/her reward, this type of toy helps keep your pet active, stimulates the brain and brings out your cats natural foraging/hunting instincts.

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Now let’s talk about exercise! This doesn’t mean that you have to sign Fluffy up with a gym membership. Try finding something that your cat really enjoys while being active. There are a lot of different types or cat toys that can help keep your cats stimulated and active. Some promote individual play and others can help your cat be active while improving the bond between you and your cat.

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Some toys that are very popular with cats include laser pointers. Most cats will go crazy after that little red light, make sure to give your cat breaks and let them catch the red dot sometimes. As a reward you can place the beam leading them to a toy or treat. You can train your cat to use a special cat exercise wheel, not all cats will be fond of it but some cats really enjoy it and will eventually use it on their own. There are a variety of toy mice, catnip toys and wand/feather toys that engages your cat to chase, run and jump after.