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Rosie_MRCVS, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 1065
Experience:  BVetMed MRCVS, Qualified veterinarian of ten years in small animal practice in England
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My wife and I are recently married after a 5 year commuter

Customer Question

Hello. My wife and I are recently married after a 5 year commuter relationship. I have 2 historically indoor outdoor cats. They have been living in the basement w food, water, toys, a cat tree and 2 litter boxes. The resident indoor cats had to be separated. We think the female cat caught a whiff of the other cats...she went after her brother in a vi ious way and now they are separated by two stacked baby gates w cardboard on the front so she cannot see through the gates. Our vet suggested a temporary coutse off Buspar. Conditions permitting, we are thinking of exchanging food bowls. Do you have other ideas for calming everyone down? Thank you!
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Rosie_MRCVS replied 2 years ago.
Hi I'm Rosie one of the vets and I'd like to try and help you and your cats. It can be extremely difficult getting cats to get along, but fortunately there is a specific technique for this so it is achievable. It does take time and patience though - if you rush it then it really won't work and can be quite frustrating.
The first thing to do is allocate each cat (or pairs of cats) their own room. Each room should obviously have food, water, litter trays and beds - and if there is more than one cat in each room then you will need about three litter trays per room I'm afraid. Regularly go in and give them attention so they don't think they are being punished. Leave each cat in its allocated area for three days. At the end of three days leave everything in situ - food bowls, beds, trays etc - and swap the cats over. This will force the cats to get used to each others' smell.
At the end of three days you can start to gradually introduce them. Initially let them smell each other through a closed door. Do this for very small periods of time initially. Give each cat something they like while they are interacting with the 'stranger cats' (if that makes sense) so they associate the other cats with something positive. A favourite food is good, or a string toy under the door so they actively place with each other. Gradually build on the time and then start to slowly open the door - at first a cm, then an inch etc etc. Do this over a few days for each step. Gradually you will let them get used to each other and finally you will be able to open the door completely. Any aggression will set you back a few days, so do take it steadily.
Once they are used to each other then there are several tricks to maintaining a multi-cat household. The main one is keep it so they are not competing for resources - and they see you as a resource as well. For a four cat household you need a minimum of five litter trays (preferably more) spread out throughout the house. That way, if one of them wants to use one they can find one that isn't near another cat. Same with the food and water bowls - not near the litter trays and spread out so cats can access them privately if they wish, or it isn't possible for one cat to keep the rest away from the food. You will need multiple beds as well. Cats like being high-up, so clear some spaces on the top of closets or high shelves. You should allocate equal amounts of time with each cat, and get into a predictable routine - cats like routine. Feed times, bedtimes and playtimes should be the same each day.
Cats also need to work for their food, so ideally feed them where they have to interact with the food supply to be fed - this is a natural behaviour and will really reduce stress. They also need to engage in hunting behaviour, so if they are indoor cats let them hunt toys on a string as part of the play, but it is important that they are rewarded afterwards - otherwise it is like catching a bird and then not being allowed to eat it. A favourite treat is a good reward.
Feliway can also help. This is basically reassuring cat hormones. I would get it in a diffuser (or several, as it is also a resource that needs to be accessible to all). It reassures cats and lets them know everything is ok, but it does need to be used in conjunction with everything discussed above. Once plugged in (they are like plug in air freshener) you can't switch them off, and have them in and working for at least half an hour before introducing the cats, as cats don't like the initial smells released.
I hope I've helped - if you have any questions from this then just hit 'reply' and I will get them and get back to you. Otherwise, if you have found this useful, please leave a positive rating so that I may be compensated for my time. Thank you, ***** ***** luck, Rosie.