We were able to trim Garrus’ nails ourselves today with a towel over his face, a stress reducer to calm him, and patience! (He normally gets his nails trimmed at the vet’s office.) The stress reducer also made him more chilled out and affectionate (!) so he forgave us quickly and repeatedly asked for visits from both of us. He even started talking outside my office door when I was trying to do schoolwork, at which point I took a break and he came in for a desk visit. We were able to pick him up and have lap time with him – and he even purred in my lap! Such huge progress for our Gentleman Cat!
Some cats prefer to have buddies, as in the case of Charlie and Garrus. Others are happier as solo cats (example: Nala). Still other cats get along better with dogs than cats, as was the case for Boudicca. It depends widely on the cat’s personality, background, age, previous experiences, health, and other factors.
It’s important to remember that cats and dogs have very different social behaviors. Wild cats tend to be solitary, and as a result, they don’t have the complex social relationships and behaviors that other animals, such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, and whales, have. Dogs have easily recognized play behaviors, such as the “play bow”. By contrast, cats do not have these ritualized play behaviors. Misunderstandings can occur as a result. Case in point, one cat may chase or swat at another in play but the other cat may interpret this as a threatening action. Consequently, the play session can quickly escalate to a fight.
Garrus, being a bona fide Gentleman Cat, is willing to share the ottoman. Mau takes it as an opportunity to sprawl and flaunt his belly.
In short, cats can be incredibly socially awkward. This has certainly been the case for Mau and, to a lesser extent, Charlie when he tried ever so earnestly to befriend Boudicca every day, regardless of her definite opinions on the subject.
Ahem. Mau appears unaware of the concept of personal space. Garrus, for his part, is again relegated to being another cat’s pillow. (Charlie has done this a few times so this situation is not new.)
There are several factors to consider when keeping a multi-cat household, whether it is introducing a new pet to residents or helping housemates get along. There are several actions you can take to keep things peaceful. They can include:
- Background. A cat’s ability to successfully adapt to a new home with housemates depends on the cat’s age, personality, prior experiences, health, and other factors. Where did this cat come from? How did the cat react to other cats in the shelter? Charlie, for example, had no such compunctions and would walk right up to a new cat and roll onto his back. For this reason, the director paired him with the well-mannered Garrus. Since Charlie was so affable, he and Garrus became instant friends.
- Space. Cats highly value their personal space, and some feel safer high up or in down low in cave-like environments in which to hide. Make sure you provide ample areas for your cats to hide in, sleep, play in, and call their own. We have multiple sleeping areas (including cat beds, couches, chairs, the bed, and the window seat), the cat tree, and boxes throughout the house.
- Decreased competition for resources. This is closely related to #2 and #4. Lessen friction by serving food in separate dishes and providing enough litter boxes. Having a variety of options where to snooze, sunbathe, watch birds, and play also helps, as does providing vertical territory and hiding or safe spots.
- Feeding arrangements. In the morning, our cats jauntily escort us into the kitchen in anticipation of breakfast. We have learned that putting a dish in its own position and putting it down in the same spot each time keeps the peace. Garrus, for example, sits like the gentleman he is by the end table while we prepare his meals; he beelines to his spot before we set the dish down. Each cat has their own dish so they don’t have to compete for food.
- Calm environment. Sometimes using a calming pheromone diffuser like Feliway helps cats relax and get along better.
- Attention. Spend one-on-one time with each of your pets. Play with them. Offer scritches and belly rubs. Have a snuggle. Your attention and affection is also a resource. Don’t have your pets compete for it.
Garrus and Charlie like to share the blue elephant pillow and snuggle.
I’ve considered myself lucky that Garrus and Charlie were already ironclad cat buddies when we adopted them. Charlie is so characteristically sunny that he enthusiastically wants to make friends with everyone, a trait he demonstrated repeatedly in the shelter before he came into our lives. Garrus, being a bona fide Gentleman Cat, is self-possessed, gives other cats space (and appreciates the favor returned), and is adept at reading other cats’ body and vocal language.
When we decided to foster again and brought home Mau, we focused on ensuring that our cats remained happy and that harmony prevailed. We were fortunate that Mau previously had housemates, and we acclimated everyone to one another slowly. However, sometimes it appears that Mau doesn’t always speak the same “cat language” as Charlie and Garrus do. Because Mau isn’t territorial himself, he doesn’t seem to realize that other cats have their preferred spots, personal space, or things they claim as their own.
Mau initially claimed the top platform as his spot while Charlie kept his spot. But Mau would occasionally bop Charlie on the head, apparently in play. Charlie wasn’t a fan though; up until then Charlie had been the one doing the bopping (to Garrus).
Mau took Charlie’s spot! He’s unrepentant about it too.
Charlie and Garrus like to share the car seat, though one could argue that Charlie tends to hog the chair and Garrus gets squished.
I found a most handsome box monster. All the cats wanted to check out this new box but Mau got into it first.
We’ve had Mau for almost three months now. About a dozen people have reached out to Austin Pets Alive expressing an interest in him, though several have not responded after an initial email. I’ve exchanged emails with a few and it was by mutual agreement that Mau was probably not a good fit for that particular person and home. (That’s OK. Not every pet fits every person.) Two people have met Mau in person but the main issue there is that he becomes Mr. Shy and hides under the bed whenever new people come to the house! It’s hard to convince someone that he is a lap cat when he’s nowhere to be seen and requires a lot of coaxing to come out.
After having Mau in our house for some time, we’ve been able to assess a few of his needs. If we were to draw up an ideal home for him, this is what we would want:
- Only cat home. While Mau is not overtly aggressive and seems to like other cats, he doesn’t grasp the concept of territoriality and gets in other cats’ faces when trying to play. He also steals food and butts in when another cat is receiving affection because he wants to be the center of attention. Garrus, being passive, is rather tolerant of these faux pas while Charlie does not like another cat being more intense than he is. Other cats could construe Mau’s behavior as being dominant, which, coupled with his size and clumsy manners, could lead to conflict. Furthermore, we have no idea how Mau would react to a dog or how a dog would react to him.
- Homebody. Mau would definitely do best with an owner that is home a good deal of the time. He craves human companionship and demands regular lap sessions and snuggles. Mau is the type of cat who will happily chill on the bed while you fold laundry just to be near you. He also enjoys toys and playing with the red dot, something that involves his human’s participation. Other cats are more independent and self-sufficient. Mau is not one of those cats; he’s a cuddle bug. While he is a color-point, he doesn’t demonstrate a lot of the traditional Siamese-y traits like being exceptionally vocal, extroverted, busy, precocious, and social. Instead Mau is low-key and selective but definitely a lap cat.
- Quiet home. Our home is a pretty chill environment. The most exciting thing that may happen is when we get all three cats to chase the red dot in laps across the house for a sustained period of time. We are definitely not the life of the party and our cats like it that way. Mau falls in that camp as well. Mau is not a fan of new people streaming in and out and would not like being in a loud, high-traffic, bustling house. With that in mind, Mau would probably not like being around small children. While he might do better with teenagers if they are respectful, Mau still might not do well with lots of noise and activity that often accompanies a house full of people. Because he can be timid and skittish, I suspect he would spend a lot of time hiding and being unhappy.
- Routine. This goes with #3. We have a predictable routine, something that works well for all three cats. They are most insistent about getting their meals at the same time every day and don’t care about weekends. I’m not kidding about Mau wanting regularly scheduled lap time and it is a common occurrence for Aaron to wake up with Mau sprawled on him. Mau is most persuasive with those huge Frank Sinatra blue eyes. You can’t say no to him. Then you can’t get up from the couch for a while because you have a sweet furball sprawled on your lap.
- Experienced cat owner. This would be a definite plus. Mau, now toothless, has had a rough life and may develop health issues as he gets older. While Mau is certainly cuddly with certain people, he can be very shy at first, so those expecting instant gratification might be disappointed. While he is a genuinely sweet cat, he doesn’t fit every household.
- Crazy cat man: extra brownie points. We’re not sure if Mau truly prefers men or if he’s simply enamored with Aaron. (He does look up at Aaron adoringly and wants to bro down with him early in the morning.) If the former is the case, Mau will be one happy kitty. In the same vein, Mau may be a one-person cat. He appears to be most selective.
LOOK AT HIM. He’s adorable, isn’t he?