What to Know When Living with Two Cats (or More) in One House | Catzio

What to Know When Living with Two Cats (or More) in One House

  1. Is it Cruel to Have Only One Cat?

  2. Can Multiple Cats Live Together?

  3. Is it Better to Have Two Cats or One?

  4. Is it Better to Have Two Cats of the Same Sex?

  5. Wrap-Up: Living with Multiple Cats at Home

 

From knowing each cat’s unique personality to setting expectations for social play, there’s a lot to juggle when caring for multiple cats in one home. But you can’t just jump into it willy-nilly. You first need to do in-depth research to determine if a multi-cat household is suitable for you and your established pet. 

But first thing’s first. You need to figure out: Can multiple cats live together? Contrary to popular belief, cats are not exclusively solitary. In fact, they thrive in the company of humans and other pets. But to ensure that happens, you’ve got to know how to welcome your new cat home.  

There’s a lot to welcoming a new cat to your home, whether you have established pets or not. You need to know how to introduce cats of the same or opposite sexes, supervise their interactions, and how to set up their space to prevent conflict. Now, admittedly, this is a lot for one person to handle. But with the help of this guide, you can maintain a healthy social life for your cats at home. 

 

Is it Cruel to Have Only One Cat?

Many cats are content with living solo. Since their relatives—domestic and wild—naturally lead a solitary lifestyle, it’s not much of a stretch that some cats might even prefer it.  Still, such solitude can be good or bad for domestic cats. 

For instance, some indoor cats are far more social than you might expect. Whether humans or cats,  they’re happy spending time with their housemates. A  good ol’ petting session, playtime (object play indoors or controlled play outdoors on-leash or in a catio), and leashed walk now and then with its human can be enough to keep most cats satisfied.  

Interestingly, scientists have described petting as an objectively unusual species behavior for both cats and humans. Regardless, the two consistently seek it out. This suggests that petting (along with cuddling and similar physical contact) is incredibly important to the human-cat bond. 

All this considered, cats can be perfectly happy when living in a single-cat household. And because there are so many ways you can satiate your cat’s social needs without an additional pet, it’s safe to conclude that it is not cruel to raise it on its own. 

Still, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bring another cat into the home. But if you’re considering a new addition, there are a few things you need to know first. 

Can Multiple Cats Live Together? 

Living with more than one cat is doable, even preferable, according to some cat owners. In fact, some cats even prefer it that way, even in relatively large numbers. Studies have shown that domestic felines can live in surprisingly large groups inside an enclosed space. They can even live in densities more than 50x greater than some outdoor feral cat communities! 

(Keep in mind that that’s just an example based on scientific observations. So, how many cats is too many? Five cats per household.)

Even households with up to five cats can offer enough space and security for each individual to feel comfortable. It’ll be a challenge to give them all enough space to respect their privacy when needed. But beyond that, cats are (unsurprisingly) self-sufficient and will work the following details out amongst themselves:

  • Designation of litter boxes*
  • When to give each other space
  • Allocation of space to individual cats in the house
  • Favored spots in the house (i.e., individual cats may prefer to lounge alone in specific areas of the home at certain times of the day)

*The rule for litter boxes is one litter box per cat plus one extra. This distribution will allow each cat to select its favorite potty spot in the house and change things up occasionally, if desired. It can be stressful for cats to share litter boxes, so you should give them as many options as possible. 

Just know that, while your cats are working all these details out, there can be differences in the amount of real estate they take up per individual, influenced by each cat’s sex. Researchers observed that males tend to claim significantly more rooms than females. However, these room separations are never set in stone and will continuously change throughout their time living together. 

And remember: Your cat doesn’t have to just tolerate other pets in the house. It can genuinely enjoy—and even benefit from—the company. Here’s how.

 

Is it Better to Have Two Cats or One?

In many cases, it is much better to have multiple cats than it is to live with only one. Some of the most notable benefits are unique to kittenhood. Like most mammals (especially predators), the early years are when cats get the socialization they need to thrive in adulthood.

One of the most common drawbacks of raising an only-cat is the risk of playtime hyperactivity, especially during object play or occasional socialization. This is because the lack of exposure to other cats eliminates opportunities to learn things like bite inhibition or taking social cues. So, your cat might act a bit “unhinged” at times, simply because it doesn’t know any better. 

On the contrary, a cat that grows up among peers is less likely to display such behavioral problems. That’s why veterinarians frequently remind pet owners that social play is crucial to cats’ mental and behavioral health, regardless of age. With other cats, they can engage in all sorts of behaviors that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to provide, including:

  • Biting
  • Chasing
  • Play fighting

You’ll observe all these behaviors up to ages seven to nine weeks. For some cats, they gradually fade through maturity. But that doesn’t mean they stop playing. Instead, the play style and focus simply shift. 

For example, a cat that stops biting, chasing, or play fighting with its feline housemates might later develop a preference for object play (e.g., stalking, pouncing, chasing, and pawing at toys). Another cat might persist in its preference to play with other cats in the same way it did as a kitten. 

Both could live comfortably in a shared home, even if one had grown up alone. In that case, they’d need a bit more help from their human to ensure they acclimate to each other’s company smoothly and play safely together.

How to Introduce a New Cat to a Multi-Cat Household 

Many cat owners use a combined variety of methods to welcome their new cat home. Some are more effective than others, but most can be applied to the average cat with success. Of course, the best technique depends on the new and established cats’ personalities, their ages, the materials (e.g., toys, carriers, litter boxes, etc.) you have available, and even the layout of your home. 

Here's how to get two cats to get along: 

  • Spray Feliway in the cat’s social area to help calm them or buy wall plug-ins*  
  • Swap the cats’ toys and blankets to help them acclimate to each other’s scent 
  • Have the cats spend time together in a common space for short periods, gradually allowing them more time with one another 
  • Place the two cats (or more) in separate carriers on opposite sides of the room to see and smell each other with no physical interaction 
  • Feed them at the same time, on opposite sides of a door to help them acclimate to each other’s scent and prevent possible aggression during mealtime*  
  • Let the new cat have its own room where it primarily stays for the first few days (that way your established cat doesn’t feel like its space is being invaded too much 
  • Make sure there are plenty of hiding places available when it’s time for them to spend time together (that way they can escape if things get too intense or uncomfortable) 

*Many people seem to find success with this one! 

So, when employing any or all of these methods, how long does it take for cats to get used to each other? Well, that's the thing... You must be patient when introducing cats to one another. Although some might only need a few days to feel comfortable with the new housemate, others might need weeks, or even months. Let your established cat set the pace, as it’s the one which is most likely to instigate conflict relating to territory or general possessiveness. 

How to Supervise Social Play 

“Are my cats playing or fighting?” This question will inevitably arise as you and your cats start interacting more. 

It’s easy to get confused by their body language and vocalizations since the differences separate fighting and play fighting are so subtle, at times. Plus, playtime can often look more aggressive than it really is, making it even harder to discern when the rough-and-tumble needs to stop. Keep an eye out for the following behaviors to determine what’s going on between your cats:

  • Tackling, pouncing, and wrestling. These are all normal behaviors that you’ll see during play. After all, cats are predatory animals, so it’s natural for them to “practice” their hunting skills during playtime. 
  • Vocalizations. Friendly play does not usually involve any hissing, shrieking, caterwauls, or other harsh noises. If you hear any of these, it’s time to break it up. 
  • Body language. Watch how your cats position themselves, especially the whole body, the ears, and tail. Tail-flicking usually indicates annoyance or aggravation. Flattened ears and a hunched body (possibly with piloerection, or raised fur) signal impending aggression. Deescalate the situation by separating the cats. 

Identifying multi-cat household fighting vs. play can be confusing. But when you know what to look for, you can ensure a healthy, safe household dynamic for your pets. 

 

Is it Better to Have Two Cats of the Same Sex? 

It’s not objectively better to have cats of the same- or opposite sex in one household. As mentioned previously, male and female cats require different amounts of space, on average. So, while a female cat may only claim one room as her preferred lounging area, a male might claim two. Thus, they can both get their own private areas when they need it, with the option to interact if they so choose. 

But not everyone has that much square footage to work with. If you live in a relatively small home, it may be a good idea to get two female cats to ensure they share space comfortably. Bigger properties may be more suitable for either several male cats or mixed-sex cat groups of up to four or five.

That’s great for space, but what about behavior? This is where it can get a little tricky. But it doesn’t have to. To ensure that you don’t face any unnecessary conflict or complications when living with opposite-sex cats, have them neutered and spayed. This can help mitigate hormone-related aggression and prevent unwanted litters. 

Your new cat’s ideal sex depends on your established cat, too. For example, research has shown that adult cats in multi-cat households do better with the same sex. 

Of course, these rules aren’t hard and fast. You know your cat better than anyone else. While it’s useful to get familiar with these guidelines, you’re not obligated to follow them if you determine that they’re not what’s best for your cat.

Wrap-Up: Living with Multiple Cats at Home 

Living with more than one cat in a household can be challenging. There’s so much to juggle from the moment you bring the new cat home. You must carefully introduce them and let them set the pace for their interactions, all while knowing precisely which behaviors to watch out for when supervising play. 

It can be overwhelming for first-timers—heck, for experienced cat owners, too! But with this guide, you can make the best decision for your household pets and ensure a fulfilling life for them all.  


About the Author

My name is Jazmin "Sunny" Murphy, and I am a science communicator and web content writer. Since 2015, I've been producing scientific content that is written in plain English. My love for life science has influenced my professional and academic aspirations since I was a kid. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and 21 units of a Master's education in Environmental Policy & Management (concentration: Fish and Wildlife Management). You can learn more about me and my science writing and reporting work at my website, Black Flower Writing Services.

Comments

  • Great info. My big question for cat owners is how do people afford quality flea tick treatment for multiple cats. I actually have 4, and the product I was using no longer does the trick. Please multiple cat owners, what do you use?

    sonflower5 on

Leave a comment

* Required fields

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.