Harmony in a Multi-Cat Household Part Two

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Calm environment. Sometimes using a calming pheromone diffuser like Feliway helps cats relax and get along better.
  6. 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.

Harmony in a Multi-Cat Household Part One

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.

Farewell to Boudicca

Shortly before 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon, my beloved Queen Boudicca Mata Hari Sophia passed from this life and found peace. It was dreadfully sad. Boudicca was terminally ill with multiple chronic, incurable, and progressing medical conditions, and she was suffering as a result. I had to to be her advocate and, out of love and duty, I had to act on her behalf and end that pain. The tears flowed and ebbed. Boudicca passed painlessly away, hopefully with the knowledge that her human family loved her fiercely.

I knew this day was coming and began to prepare myself mentally and emotionally weeks beforehand. I had to make a hard choice but in the end it was the right one, and I don’t regret that choice. Her human mother–me, the human she chose all those years ago at the ASPCA–loved her enough to let her go.

Afterward, everything seemed surreal and out of focus. Happysad feelings are difficult to articulate in coherent sentences. I felt a sinking feeling in my chest–sadness and loss. At some point, relief trickled over me. Comfort knowing that Boudicca was in good company with the rest of my family’s pets that have gone over the Rainbow Bridge. Gratitude for the 18 years of loving companionship and joy that she brought to my life.

It still feels mildly surreal to accept that my sweet baby girl no longer lives among us. Her pink beds lie empty, vacant thrones upon which Queen Boudicca lay in languid repose. In the evening, the boys aren’t interested in or know how to enjoy lap time yet. Charlie, for example, would probably enjoy it quite a bit but he’s rather wiggly. The boys certainly like to snuggle with one another but they’re not snugglebugs with humans yet. We’re working on that. I love Charlie and Garrus deeply (every pet in my house always winds up slightly over-loved) but they do not and will not replace Boudicca.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of little things I will miss about her. Without fail, Boudicca greeted me when I came home, yammering and dancing around my feet until I picked her up. She turned into a limp slinky accordion cat when held. Her purr rumbled, punctuated with trills, when she was filled with lazy contentment (or feline entitlement), especially when I kissed her in between the ears. I would sometimes wake up with her camped out on my chest in a smug cat loaf. I miss her quirks, like when she went through a kleptomaniac phase and repeatedly stole my grandmother’s light blue mohair scarf, complete with matching hat and gloves, and absconded with them to her tower. She became an early riser and pawed me awake. Her eyes turned lantern bright Maleficent-esque green, as though she was plotting nefarious deeds and how to take over the world…just as soon as she finished her nap. She sprawled across books and newspapers and refused to budge. She explored new boxes with relish or took her responsibilities seriously when testing a crocheted blanket for softness and nappability. When I spoke on the phone, Boudicca contributed her two cents to the conversation. Queen B was an excellent reading buddy, especially on quiet rainy days.

Rest in peace, Queen B. I love you.

P.S. I am very grateful for all my friends and family that reached out to me and offered me hugs, comfort, and condolences. Your kindness and thoughtfulness is truly touching. Thank you.