WHAT IT TAKES TO LIVE IN A MULTI-CAT HOUSEHOLD
Human Parent to Seven Cats, Author of The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary, Cat Blogger at ZeeZoey.com/Blog
1. How many cats do you have? Any other pets? Currently I have 7 cats – Jazz is our elder male Ragdoll; Harley our female rescue Tortie; Zee, our lovable male Maine Coon; Zoey, our free-spirited female Bengal; and Mia, Peanut, and Rolz – our “kittens” who were the byproduct of a love affair between Zee and Zoey. While it must be clearly understood I am, and always have been a huge proponent of spaying and neutering, nature beat me to the punch on this one. We kept the kittens and they have enriched our lives in more ways than I could ever express with words, but, all our cats have long since been spayed and neutered to prevent further incidents and I continue my advocacy to spread the word about being responsible from my own lessons learned. My record for mixed pet ownership goes several years back – 5 dogs, 4 cats, a rabbit, and a frog – all at the same time!
2. Do all the pets get along with each other? There is an occasional hissy fit now and then and some heightened growling, chasing, and mayhem during certain times of the day. Most of it revolves around dinner time or bed time and is territorial in nature, but, for the most part, we live in peace and harmony.
3. Do all the pets get along with the humans in the house? Being that we wait on them hand and paw and adore them to the ends of the earth – they are no fools and love us equally as much (there is only my fiancé and myself at the moment living in the house).
4. We’ll be focusing on cats in this Q & A segment. Do you feed your cats wet/canned food or dry food or both? Are any on a special diet? (You don’t have to name the brands of food but feel free to do so if you want to give thumbs up to a certain brand! Some people feel uncomfortable or “put on the spot” declaring the cat food brand they buy.) Our cats get both – we give them an indoor formula of dry kibble in the morning, at dinner they get the dry kibble with a can of wet mixed in. The canned food is a special formula that is low ash in nature to help prevent urinary tract infections which can be fatal to a cat. They get more dry kibble at night, as kind of a “snack” and are very happy with the regiment, with the exception of Mia, who is the definition of a finicky cat who seems to survive on air….
5. How MUCH food do you estimate the cats eat in, say, a month? Or if easier, a week? I buy one of the larger 15.5 pound bags of dry food every 2 weeks and 7 cans of wet food each week.
6. Do you hand out treats during the day? I do give them treats now and then. It is not every day, but they really do enjoy them, so I do like to make them feel special and spoiled!
7. Do you feed at specific times (more-or-less) or use an automatic feeder? Or do you have food available all the time? We find it to be very important to keep the cats on a schedule. Not only does it encourage human-feline bonding, but the structure seems to maintain more peacefulness in a multi-cat household and also keeps their weight in check.
8. Do you work outside the home or are you able to stay home with the cats? If you go somewhere, do the cats have full run of the house? I work during the day, but my fiancé consults from home, so the cats almost always have a human in the house. If we do have to travel, the house is very carefully “cat-proofed” so that they can have as much free space as possible in a safe environment. I also make sure to have someone come by to feed them, socialize, and keep the litter clean.
9. Do you attempt grooming all the cats, as in: brushing, ear cleaning, teeth brushing, nail clipping? (I’m currently “training” my cat to accept teeth brushing. This is by far the toughest task.) Grooming is not so bad – most of my cats have very short hair, so the brushing is easy and they enjoy the process. Two of them have long hair – one loves to be brushed and the older one (Jazz), well, he hates it, and it is a struggle. He is starting to get mats and I am trying to figure out ways to peacefully brush them out without me getting hurt! Luckily the nails are not an issue – we have many, many scratching posts and cat condos all over the house and they use them regularly, which keeps the nails buffed and in check. As far as the teeth brushing, that is something I do need to try, but have not attempted yet!
10. If you help groom the cats, do you dive in and groom all in one day? Sometimes it’s a dive in project, and sometimes it’s based on who wants or needs it. We find that on occasion, the cats will stand in front of the “grooming drawer” as a hint to us that they want to be brushed.
11. Do you try splitting up your attention to give a little to each one daily? Absolutey. Because our cats are primarily creatures of habit, we really know their individual needs for attention by now. Some of them want loving in the afternoon, some at night while we snuggle on the couch to watch TV, and some when we go to bed. It’s just a matter of intuitively communicating with the signals your cats are giving you – if they are asking for attention outside of the norm, we will always give them that courtesy and try to make them feel loved and special at all times.
12. Do the cats sleep on the bed with you? Do they sleep throughout the night, or do they become active in the middle of the night? Our bed is like Grand Central Station and there is a constant changing of the guards throughout the night. Two of them will stay on the bed, religiously, glued to my body until I wake up. One of them will stay with us for a precious few moments before he heads off to wherever he sleeps for the night, and Zee, our Maine Coon, has a unique habit where he will stay in bed with us for a while, then he leaves for what we call his “nightly ritual of homage.” He literally feels compelled to bring us gifts throughout the night. We will hear him enter the bedroom as he makes a loud and garbled meow noise. We then hear a plunk, as a plush toy is dropped to the floor. He will meow loudly until we thank him for his gift. This happens between 5 to 7 times each night and he has a tendency to bring us one or two of his perennially favorite toys, and the rest a random selection.
13. How do you deal with all the loose cat hair? We pretend not to notice it for the most part and do a lot of daily sweeping and vacuuming! You can only do so much, or you will make yourself crazy, so we just try to put it into perspective. These cats live in our house too – cat hair is just part of the deal! We also have a lot of throw blankets on chairs and on the couch so that they can easily be picked up and put in the washer. The FURminator is also a great product – it removes hair and loose dander far better than a regular comb or brush and you would be amazed at the amount of hair you get off of your cat. This de-shedding tool also helps reduce the amount of hairballs your cat will throw up.
14. Do you try to get all of them to the vet for an exam, shots, etc. every year? Do you stagger the visits or load them in the car (in cages?) and just go? Do you use a flea/tick/worm prevention? Wellness visits are staggered based on age – usually the “kittens” will go as a group (they are 3 years old, and hardly kittens, but that is what we call them), the elders go as a group (2 of them), and the middle aged folk go as a group (2 of them). This also ensures that the trip is the most economically balanced. A vet’s office usually offers different programs for the different ages of a cat, so always be sure to ask so that you are not overpaying for services. We use Revolution brand for flea/worm/tick prevention. We had a serious outbreak of fleas in our house several years ago and it was the only brand that worked.
15. Do you have visitors very often? How do the cats react? We usually have company in the summer and during the Christmas holidays. The cats will typically hide for the first few minutes, then the bolder, more social one’s will come out and stay within the thick of activity the whole time. Some of them will hide under the bed for several hours and might refuse to eat dinner in the kitchen – I bring the food in to them, and usually by the end of the night, everyone will become settled enough that all seven of them are out. Some remain cautious and shy the whole time, and others take advantage of all the extra loving, petting and attention they get!
16. What kind of toys do you have for the cats? (I suppose they spend a lot of time having fun with each other!) Have you decked out the house with cat towers and scratching posts? We could literally open a pet store, we have so many toys, towers, and scratching posts! That is another reason the cats get along so well – we provide them with a lot of stimulation and also make sure that they have plenty of vertical (tree-dwelling) and horizontal (bush-dwelling) spaces for them to take personal ownership of. When you walk into our house, there is no mistaking that cats live with us. We want them to feel that the house belongs to them too – not just a place for them to live in, but a space that is acclimated to what a cat needs and craves in order to thrive. Their favorite toy by far, is “DaBird,” which is a toy that not only encourages human-feline bonding, it allows the cat to revert to its predatory nature, as it is designed as a hunt and capture toy. We have everything from plush toys, to feather toys, to laser pens, to maze toys, to good old-fashioned human toes and rolled up wads of paper!
17. This is getting a bit personal, but with several cats, is it very costly? (I realize that what one considers costly, another may not. Also, different areas of the country may be more expensive to care for pets than others. This is a curiosity question and a serious Q&A for anyone considering bringing in another cat [or several] into their lives – and if a person truly cannot afford to care for a cat, then they should not add a cat to their household.) Cost is relative and it really depends on what you can personally afford to give. Many toys can be cheap and homemade, there are lower cost brands of cat food available, and a lot of communities offer low cost clinics for vaccinations and things of that nature. The key to success with cats, is love, communication, bonding, and patience. A lot of it is space as well. I think most cats would prefer a playmate, so maybe you cannot afford seven cats like me, but perhaps two would be manageable. You just have to know what you are most comfortable with – there is such a thing as too many cats in a household as well! Many times we are approached to adopt more, and much as I would like to, I realize that the social dynamic that we currently have built, would be seriously disrupted at this time, which could encourage bad behaviors such as spraying and fighting. I would recommend that anyone with a single cat, do at least try to adopt one more. There are so many senior cats, in particular, that make wonderful companions and really need a good home. Just have patience – your cat can sense your own mood and will react off of your positive or negative energy.
18. How many litter boxes do you have set up? Clumping or Non-clumping litter? Any problems with any cats not wanting to use a litter box? We are obsessively compulsive in my house. We may have seven cats, but I make certain you would never know that. While it is recommended you a have a litter box for every cat, we do not do that. We have two litter boxes, but, because they are scooped almost the instant someone uses them, we can keep them constantly clean. We use a clumping litter and do have an occasional problem with one of the males who is insistent that he perch and spray all over the walls. We have an extremely tall back to the litter box, so I am not quite sure how he does it. Thankfully it is a random habit… When we do travel, I put an extra litter box in each bathroom because I know that the box will not be scooped as frequently as when we are home. No cat wants a dirty litter box, and who can blame them?
19. Do the cats go outside (besides when you take them to the vet) or are they strictly indoor kitties? If indoor, have you had problems with any wanting to dart out the door? My cats are indoor cats with weekend privileges. I am not a proponent of letting cats wander freely outside – it is just too dangerous and I do not want to risk losing any of my babies. However, we do have a gorgeous tropical paradise in our backyard that is completely fenced in. On weekend mornings, we will grab a cup of coffee, and take them out, completely supervised for about an hour. Our Bengal Zoey, who is a bit wild, is kept on a harness and leash, and the others are allowed to roam. This is the highlight of their week and they live for these outdoor jaunts. It gives them a chance to explore their innate cat nature and when they come inside, they are completely exhausted, but absolutely radiate in the joy we gave them. When the weather is inclement or we cannot let them out, they are visibly depressed and will pout for several hours… They have darted out on occasion, but, again, because the yard is fenced, we are able to get them in relatively quickly!
20. Is there anything you’d like to advise people about pertaining to owning multiple cats? Any problems you’ve encountered or things to be aware of? I would highly encourage anyone who is debating the issue to try it. There are literally millions of cats in shelters who could use a good home and it would be wonderful if those numbers could be reduced. The only thing to be aware of, is that there very well could be behavioral and territorial issues. You can’t just bring a new cat into the equation and expect best-friend bonding to happen immediately. It needs to be a gradual process and if you don’t have the time, patience, or wherewithal to devote to the commitment, you will have problems. Spaying and neutering a cat will help reduce territorial and spraying issues and it is vital to spend unique and individual time with each cat you have. If you still encounter problems with socialization and a peaceful multi-cat co-existence, rather than give up, reach out for help. There are numerous books, websites, and social networking groups that can offer all sorts of invaluable advice on whatever problem you may be encountering.
I want to thank Deborah Barnes for answering these 20 Questions about Living With Multiple Cats! She can be found here:
Author of The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary