Positive Steps in solving multi-cat dilemmas

Trying to make a multi-cat living situation work


Giving extra time and patience. Some cats will just take longer than others to adjust to a new home, cat group and living situation. If your introductions are going poorly, give your cats the benefit of the doubt, and give them more time. At the same time, take positive steps to increase your chances of success:

– Add extra litter boxes in widely-dispersed locations around your home.

– Increase available vertical space with one or more additional climbing trees and other cat-friendly structures.

– Offer several interactive play sessions throughout the day. Some of these should include just the resident cats (with the newcomer confined to his room). Other play sessions should include all cats, and be interspersed and followed by plenty of tasty, highly-desirable treats.

– Increase the pampering, taking special care to reassure any cat who seems to be having extra trouble adjusting to the new situation. Perhaps some daily private time, devoted to just that cat, will help to soothe his fears.

Step up the scent mingling. Keep up with the frequent swapping of bedding between the newcomer and the resident cats. Some cat owners have reported success with rubbing both cats with a towel that has been dampened with a lavender scent, or a scented product used by the owner (and is thus familiar and comforting). It’s also been reported that dabbing some cooking vanilla (vanilla extract) behind the ears of the cats can help mask the “scary stranger” odor long enough for the cats to develop some mutual tolerance.

Reimagine your space, break up your group. If months have gone by and it’s become abundantly clear that the newcomer is just not being accepted, you need to decide whether your commitment to the new cat is strong enough that you’re willing to break up your cat group, and “reengineer” your home to accommodate all the cats in a happier living arrangement. Multiple groups within your home mean complications in such daily tasks as feeding, cleanups, playtimes, and making sure all your cats, no matter what their living arrangements, get a sufficient amount of your personal, daily attention.

Pharmaceutical assistance. What if you’re really, really determined that these cats are going to get along together? “That’s when we reach for medications,” says Dodman.

Consult a behavior specialist. Sometimes, it’s helpful to get a fresh set of eyes on the situation. Ask your vet for a referral to a behavioral specialist. Feline behaviorists are experts, with extensive scientific training in feline nature, needs and behavior. With their knowledge and experience in dealing with a range of tricky multi-cat dilemmas, a behavior specialist can analyze your situation from a broader perspective, and offer tips and options you can try.


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