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There are numerous things to be aware of when living with more than one cat in a household. From knowing your individual cat’s personality to setting expectations for social play, you must do lots of planning in advance to know whether a multi-cat household is right for you and your fur-baby.
Can multiple cats live together? Contrary to popular belief, cats are not exclusively solitary creatures. In fact, they thrive in community with humans and other pets. To ensure that the living experience is positive, you must know when to introduce cats of the same- or opposite sex, how to supervise their social interactions, and even how many litter boxes to provide.
Admittedly, this is a lot to keep track of for one person. Fortunately, with the help of this guide, crafted with expert veterinary insight and scientific observation, you can maintain a healthy social life for all your kitties.
Is It Cruel to Have Only One Cat?
As you may know, many felines are naturally solitary creatures. Cats, domestic and wild, tend to lean more heavily into spending time alone, preferring their own company over any human’s or animal’s. However, the concept of solitude is a bit tricky when it comes to domestic cats.
For instance, cats that live in a structured home are far more social than you might assume. They very much enjoy spending time with their human companions, even if there is no other cat in the household. One of the most notable types of human-cat interactions that felines typically enjoy is petting.
Scientists refer to this as an objectively unusual species behavior for both cats and humans, yet, the two consistently seek it out. This suggests that the behavior (along with cuddling and similar physical contact) holds significant value to the bond between them and yields some extent of enjoyment.
So, even in a single-cat household, quality time filled with petting, feeding, and “conversation” will keep your kitty happy and fulfilled. Since there are so many ways you can satiate your kitty’s social needs without an additional pet, it’s safe to conclude that it is not cruel to own a single cat.
Still, this does not imply a lack of benefits to inviting another fur-baby into the home. If you’re considering bringing another kitty into the household, there are a few things to know beforehand.
Can Multiple Cats Live Together?
It is possible to live with more than one cat in a household. In fact, some kitties prefer it that way, despite the widespread notion that all cats like to live alone. Studies have shown that domestic felines can live in surprisingly large groups within an enclosed space. At times, they’re comfortable living at densities more than 50x greater than outdoor feral cat communities!
(Please note that this fact is based on experimental observations. No one should own more than 4-5 cats per household.)
Even in houses with up to five kitties total, you’ll never have to worry about your cat being unhappy with the proper care and attention. These animals are (unsurprisingly) self-sufficient and will work the following details out amongst themselves:
Allocation of space to individual cats in the house
Designation of litter boxes. Note: When having more than one cat, the rule for litter boxes is 1 litter box per cat and one extra. This will allow your kitties to pick their favorite potty spot in the house and change things up occasionally if they like. It can be stressful for cats to share litter boxes, so you should give them as many options as possible.
When to give each other space
Favored spots in the house (i.e., certain cats may prefer to lounge alone in specific areas of the home when not interacting with the group)
Just know that, while your cats are working all these details out, there will be gender differences in the amount of real estate they take up per individual. 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 the time you live together.
Now, understand that living in a community is not just something cats have to deal with or learn to tolerate. There are several benefits of having more than one cat in the home that can enrich your pets’ lives. Here’s how.
Is It Better to Have Two Cats Than One?
In many cases, it is markedly better to have two cats than one. Some of the primary benefits of having more than one cat can be most easily observed during kittenhood. Like most mammals (especially predatory species), this is when cats get the socialization they need to thrive in adulthood, domestic or wild.
One of the most common drawbacks of hand-raising an only-cat is the risk of hyperactivity during play, specifically when focused on objects such as toys and social interactions. However, if a cat grows up with others of its kind, such behavioral problems have a significantly reduced probability of emerging, especially if you introduce the little ones to wand toys during playtime.
These activities are crucial, leading up to ages 7-9 weeks when the behavior slowly begins to dissipate. When your cat crosses this threshold, it won’t necessarily stop playing. Instead, the focus of play will change.
As they mature, cats typically become more enthused by object play (e.g., stalking, pouncing, chasing, and pawing at toys). Still, this sort of fun can center on their kitty companions, too. So, there’s no reason to rule out an additional cat in adulthood. Just be sure to emphasize that social time while they’re young.
Are My Cats Playing or Fighting? Supervising Social Play
It’s easy for even the most experienced cat owners to get a bit nervous when watching their kitties play. Sometimes playtime can look a bit more aggressive than you might expect, so keep an eye out for the following behaviors to reassure you about what’s happening between your fur-babies:
- Tackling, pouncing, and wrestling. These are all normal behaviors that you’ll see when your cats are playing together. After all, they’re predatory animals, so it’s natural for them to “practice” taking down prey while they play.
Level of familiarity. Cats that don’t know each other well are unlikely to play. So, if you haven’t seen the two pets interacting before and they’re suddenly clawing at each other, it’s safe to assume they’re fighting.
Body language. Watch for specific signs in how your cats position themselves, in terms of the whole body, the ears, and tails. A flicking tail is usually indicative of annoyance or aggravation. At the same time, flattened ears and a hunched body (especially with raised fur) signal that aggression may ensue. Deescalate the situation by separating the kitties.
It can be challenging to manage multi-cat household fighting. However, if you know what to look for, you can ensure a healthy social dynamic for your pets.
Is It Better to Have Two Cats of the Same Gender?
It’s not objectively better to have cats of the same- or opposite sex in one household. As mentioned previously, male and female cats behave differently in the amount of space they demand in the home. So, while a female cat may only claim one room as her preferred lounging area, a male might claim two.
If you live in a relatively small home, it may be a good idea to get two females 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.
The sex of your new cat depends on the cat that’s already in your home, too. For instance, if you’re bringing in a new kitten to a house with a resident adult cat, having the opposite sex will increase the likelihood that your existing pet will accept the new housemate. On the contrary, research has shown that adult cats 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 is wise to heed these guidelines, you are not obligated to follow them if you know they’re not best for your kitty.
Living with more than one cat in a household can be quite challenging. There are several factors to be aware of, ranging from social play and fighting to your individual kitties' age and sex. With this guide, you can make the best decision for you and your feline companion and ensure a fulfilling life for both human and feline housemates.
About the Author
Jazmin “Sunny” Murphy began writing informal scientific content on nature and animals in 2015. Four years later, she launched her freelance career as a digital content and copywriter. This work merges her academic perspective, rooted in her B.S. Zoology, and professional experience as a veterinary tech, university research assistant, and more with relevant marketing, SEO, and engagement techniques across various industries. Jazmin now covers pet care, pest control, cannabis, outdoor recreation, STEM research and news, and product reviews across several niches.