As many cat owners know, it’s not uncommon for cats living in multi-cat households to have aggression issues with one another. Cats have evolved over millions of years in an outdoor environment. Fortunately, they are very adaptable companion animals and have learned to live inside the comfort of our homes. However, living indoors near one another can lead to violent and hostile behavior among cats. As caring cat owners, we want to enhance the welfare of our cats and minimize the fear, injuries, and frustration that can result from inter-cat aggression. There are straight-forward steps that cat owners can take to help eliminate aggressive behavior, improve environmental enrichment, and even help their cats like one another.
Structuring the Social Hierarchy: Cats have a very flexible social hierarchy. Unlike dogs, they do not have one “alpha” cat that reigns supreme. Cat hierarchy is determined by the time-sharing of different resource locations in their environment throughout the day. This is precisely why cats are more territorial than dogs. For example, when one cat is in the kitchen drinking out of the water bowl at 9:00 a.m., they are the high-ranking cat in that location at that time. A different cat will come along and use the water bowl resource at 11:00 a.m. and they will be a high-ranking cat. A very common problem in multi-cat households is a scarcity of resource locations. This leads to an increase in territorial and competitive behavior resulting in cat-to-cat aggression. You may see at least one cat that tries to bully, dominate, or intimidate another cat. In my practice I have seen many cases in which the only reason for this aggression is the fundamental lack of plentiful locations of resources in the environment. For example, there may be 50 cat toys, but they are all located in the living room in one basket. The cats must then figure out a time-sharing arrangement at that single toy location. This is too much to ask! It often proves to be too difficult, allowing aggression or bullying behavior to surface. The same stressful scenario can happen if cats have only one water location. This single resource location impedes the structuring of the feline social hierarchy, and this is when the fur can fly.
For wildcats out in nature, if the locations for important resources are scarce, cats go to war more often. If they are plentiful, there is no need to fight because it’s much easier to time-share resources. Our indoor domesticated cats have retained these same wildcat behaviors as part of their feline instincts. Luckily, it’s simple to make changes inside the home to help our cats get along.
Increase and Disperse Important Cat Resources: The more locations you have throughout the home for your cats’ important resources, the easier it will be to structure their very flexible social hierarchy. When in doubt, increase the number of resources and disperse them in multiple locations around the home. Food bowls, water bowls or fountains, litter boxes, cat toys, perching and resting areas, and cat scratchers are important to cats. A home providing plentiful locations for these items results in a decrease in territorial thinking that can lead to aggression. A good rule of thumb when spreading out resources is to place them upstairs and downstairs, and North, South, East, and West locations. Be creative! Imagine your home through a cat’s eyes. This can also help decrease heavy traffic in certain areas where a bully cat might linger to intimidate another cat that is on the way to a litter box or water bowl. Gone are the days of feeding everyone in the kitchen at once. Even if they seem to be getting along while eating, this approach opposes the natural feeding behavior of cats. They are solitary hunters and do not want to eat together. Creating a group eating scenario can cause other competitive behaviors at other times of the day that you may not even be aware of.
Comfort Zone® Multi-Cat Pheromone Diffusers: Certain cat pheromones create “friendly” and “safe” associations with cats. Because Comfort Zone® Multi-Cat pheromone diffusers can help cats feel calmer and friendlier around each other, it is an important component used to facilitate the time-sharing of cat resources inside the home. Comfort Zone® Multi-Cat diffusers placed throughout your cats’ environment can help timid cats have a new-found confidence and feel more relaxed when it comes to visiting important resources like food or litter box areas, cat beds, or cat scratchers. A timid cat can also have less anxiety about living together with a cat that has a personality that is more dominant. Comfort Zone® Multi-Cat diffusers can help territorial and aggressive cats that intimidate or chase other cats feel friendlier and more relaxed. As a result, the previously victimized cats are left alone.
Many cats are surrendered to the shelters for aggressive behavior. Both the victim and the aggressor cat can also sustain injuries requiring veterinary care. Utilizing Comfort Zone® pheromone products along with creating a cat friendly environment are easy and effective methods for helping your cats live together in harmony.
Comfort Zone is a registered trademark of Farnam Companies, Inc.