The popularity of cats, along with their independent nature, means there are plenty of homes housing more than one cat. The cats we know and love are descended from a solitary species, the African Wildcat, however throughout domestication, they have demonstrated an ability to share their homes and surrounding territories not only with people, but with other cats and even other species such as dogs. This has complicated the overall social behaviour of cats, with some flourishing alongside other cats, and others retaining their solitary nature - unable to comfortably share their home without issue.
This means there are plenty of happy multi-cat households, but tension is not uncommon, with some cats only able to tolerate each other, and others becoming extremely distressed or anxious. Sometimes this can manifest in obvious aggression and we see behaviours such as chasing, grabbing with two front paws (with their claws exposed), wrestling, biting and bunny kicking with back paws (again with claws out). There is also a significant amount of low-level aggression that can easily be missed by owners but is still problematic for the cats. For example, staring is an intimidating behaviour and some cats will closely watch the actions of another. They may also block access to important areas such as cat flaps and litter trays by waiting in front of them or nearby.
The reason why some cats behave like this and others don’t, depends on both the cats temperament and their life experiences. For example, most cats are naturally wary of unfamiliar cats but some are much more territorial and others much more easygoing - which will influence how accommodating they are towards other cats. Some may have had numerous aggressive interactions in the past (with cats either inside or outside the house), making them much more reluctant to share their territory.
To help cats get along, it can be helpful to reduce any competition within their territory by making sure there are plenty of the things they use - beds, food, water, scratch posts and litter trays. As cats usually prefer to avoid conflict where they can, expanding the territory using high perches and resting spots can help, as well as giving them access to as much physical space as possible by leaving bedroom doors open. If the outside area is safe or securely enclosed, granting them access can be helpful too. To prevent problems from developing from the outset, it can help to find compatible cats (litter mates often get along well), ensuring they have had positive experiences with other cats and have a temperament that complements any resident cats.
If your cats are fighting and it is difficult to manage, you can find professional help at www.ABTC.org.uk.
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