How to deal with more than one cat in your home?

Do cats need company from other felines, or do they prefer to live alone? We look at what to consider before getting more than one moggy – and the telltale signs that our cats are truly friends.

Cats have a reputation as solitary animals, yet there are also plenty of owners who believe the companionship of another cat is beneficial for their pets. There’s no general consensus as to whether multi-cat households are a good thing, but the truth is, it’s likely to depend on the cats involved.

“Cats are not naturally a social species compared with, say, rabbits or guinea pigs – they don’t need to have other cats in their lives,” explains Nicky Trevorrow, Behaviour Manager at leading feline welfare charity Cats Protection. “Some cats are more sociable and will live happily alongside other cats, but it’s hard to predict. Even if a cat has lived with others in the past, it’s not a given that they’ll take to a new cat in future – few cats are ‘social butterflies’.”

Should you get more than one cat?

So what should you bear in mind if you are thinking about adding another cat to a home that already has one (or more)? Getting a new pet is always a big decision, and all the things you previously took into account – such as the expense and your ability to care for them – are as important as ever. But this time around, there’s more than one cat to consider.

Space is an important consideration, especially if you’re considering keeping more than one cat in a relatively confined area, such as a flat. Cats need their own space and, if they are unable to get it within their home environment, conflict is likely to follow. They may also develop stress-related behaviours or illnesses such as urine spraying, over-grooming or cystitis.

Bear in mind that if you live in an urban environment, there may already be large numbers of cats in your neighbourhood, which can also lead to territorial disputes, fighting and stress.

You’ll need to assess the temperament of your existing cat (or cats) and decide whether they’d be happy to have another furry friend around. If so, multi-cat households can be a great success. And as we’ll see, there’s plenty you can do to lay the foundations for good feline relationships.

Is it better to have two cats of the same gender?

People sometimes assume that certain combinations or genders of cats are more likely to get along, but there’s no hard and fast rule about this, says Nicky. “Gender doesn’t really come into it, as long as both cats are neutered so there’s less potential for conflict on that front. The personality of the individual cats is more important. You might also want to consider getting a cat that’s a similar age to your existing pet, just because an elderly cat and a kitten are not going to be on the same wavelength in terms of energy levels.”

To accept a new feline into the family, a cat will need to see the newcomer as part of their own social group, so siblings that have been raised together often make the best pairings. If you’re introducing unfamiliar cats, the best way to ensure they accept each other is to take things as slowly as possible. Always start by introducing them to each other’s scent before gradually progressing to short, supervised meetups – find out more in our guide to introducing cats.

“You’ll also need to make sure each cat has their own resources, such as food bowls, litter trays and scratching posts, ideally in different parts of the house,” says Nicky. Our cats have many talents, but they’re generally pretty bad at sharing!

How to tell if cats get along

Some cats living under the same roof will learn to tolerate each other peacefully, yet never become best friends. If you spot any of the following, however, it’s an encouraging sign that they’ve really embraced each other:

  • Rubbing against each other.
  • Grooming each other.
  • Sleeping curled up together.

If two cats aren’t getting along, always separate them at the first signs of trouble, especially if one is a small kitten. And bear in mind that warring cats don’t always fight – there can also be more subtle signs of tension or bullying:

  • Cats divide up the house into separate territories, so you may have an upstairs cat and a downstairs cat who are generally not seen in the same territory at the same time, unless using resources.
  • They might ‘timeshare’ a favourite sofa, so that one cat uses it in the morning and the other uses it in the afternoon.
  • Cats may block other cats from using resources, so one cat will only approach their food bowl when the other isn’t around.

If you’re worried about your cats not getting on, Nicky recommends seeking advice from an Animal Behaviour and Training Council qualified behaviourist to see if you can help them build a better relationship.

Are your cats the best of friends? Tell us about them on social media using the tag #PethoodStories and we might be able to share your story.

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