For those of us who love cats, we rarely have only a single one in our lives. For socially inclined cats it is not an issue. However, cats evolved to be solitary creatures. Having separate territories reduces the stress on resources. In their own territory, individuals generally have sufficient resources to fit their needs. Only lion prides are a naturally occurring grouping of cats. There are colonies of cats today, but it is an unnatural situation. Colonies exists where resources are abundant and provide for all the members within.
Advantages of a Multi-Cat Home
Given a home has sufficient resources to successfully blend multiple cats, what is the best way to proceed? If possible, consider adopting a kitten and mother. This is a precious relationship that works well into adulthood. Another possibility is to adopt two or more kittens from the same litter or two or more kittens of the same size and age. The relationships that arise are strong, generally loving and lasting. Additionally, contemplate adopting or fostering senior cats that already have a good relationship. Doing so will provide the seniors with a loving home to spend out their latter years. What a gift!
If you already have one or multiple cats at home and would like to bring in another, it is important to increase your resources and introduce the cats slowly to each other. Any new cat, whether or not there are already cats in the home, should be provided a safe haven to allow stress free acclimation. This haven should be a room with proper resources and enough space for you to enter and sit down to engage with kitty. If kitty is shy, offer treats and play to bolster confidence and build positive associations and trust. When making initial introductions, some behavior consultants suggest feeding pets on either side of the door. What must be considered is that there might be a comfort distance, at which the pets will tolerate each other's presence, without any signs of irritation or aggression. Therefore, it may be necessary to feed each cat 10 feet from the door. That is an example, it could be more or less and will depend on the individuals involved. Over time, lessen the distance, making sure the cats will happily eat in each other's presence. The other method is to have short periods of positive association with each other, several times a day. Using a screen (to fit in the doorway or even using a fire screen)at the doorway to the safe haven, open the door so the cats on either side can see each other, yet be separated. During this encounter, the cats need to be kept busy eating treats (baby food or small pieces of their favorite cat treats). The treats create a positive association for the cats AND a distraction. They can see each other, but also look away to concentrate on the treat distribution. Watch their body language carefully. If staring begins, get them busy eating treats. Keep the introduction short, no more than 5 minutes or so. If done at least twice a day, do more if you can, the cats will begin to positively associate each other with the treats being distributed (Hey...anytime I see that other cat, I get treats! Pretty cool!).
While the above exercises are continuing, perform scent swapping. Scent swapping will facilitate the intermingling of the cats' scents. It allows contact without direct interaction. With a cloth, wipe the head, face and cheeks of each cat. Afterward take the cloth and rub it on the body of the other cat. This blends the scent of the cats together. Additionally, swap bedding (using blankets or towels for ease) between cats.
When it seems kitty is comfortable in its safe haven, allow small excursions. The other cat or family pets will be allowed in the safe haven during this time. Initially start with a room or two and keep the time frame short. Over the next few days, extend the time kitty can explore and become comfortable and acquainted with the new environment.
When the new cat and current pets are comfortable with the introductions and explorations, let the new kitty out in their presence. Begin with short, supervised visits and gradually build the exposure time. It won't be long and all pets will be communing in harmony.
The instruments of good relations in the multi-cat (and multi-pet) home are gradual, positive introductions and plenty of resources within the home. Be sure that among the resources are plenty of vertical space areas so not all pets have to share the floor area. Cats feel safe up high and by providing vertical space, their environmental area is increased. This lessens the feeling of crowding and stress.