The multi-cat household can be challenging. How do you create harmony for all of your beloved cats? Veterinary behavioral science is in hot pursuit of the answer. We know that adding environmental enrichment, and multiple and separate resources is the key to happiness in the multicat household. And cat lovers everywhere want to know more! A fantastic new study has just come out discussing the impact of adding vertical space to cats’ living space.
Dr. Sara Ellis, feline behavior specialist with iCatCare does a thorough review of the study here.
In summary, having places to climb improved relationships between cats, except at mealtimes. For these cats, meals were fed in bowls.
Dr. Ellis reports “The study has highlighted that arousal may be high around feeding time in cats fed twice a day, leading to increased agonistic interactions. This finding has especially important implications for multi-cat households, and highlights the importance of a cat’s feeding regimen on their behaviour and welfare. Cats are naturally solitary hunters, just like their wild ancestor. Since they hunt alone, their prey are generally small in size, such as small rodents. The average mouse only contains about 30 kilocalories, meaning cats must hunt, kill and eat around ten mice a day in order to meet their daily energy and nutrient requirements. Therefore, cats have adapted to eat multiple small meals over the course of a 24-hour period; this includes eating during the night, when their nocturnal prey are active. Thus feeding cats just twice a day, and out of a bowl which requires no expression of hunting behaviours to acquire their food, may be causing frustration and boredom. In order to mimic the cat’s natural feeding habit of eating little and often, owners should divide their cats’ daily food ration into several portions (iCatCare recommends a minimum of five), which should be fed throughout the 24-hour period. Feeding during the night can be achieved by using puzzle feeders. Puzzle feeders are objects that hold food and must be manipulated in different ways to release this food. These can be filled and left for cats overnight, as well as during the day if the owner is away at work. Puzzle feeders also encourage mental and physical stimulation of cats during feeding, and allow them to express some of their natural hunting behaviour.”
Like all of us, cats need to feel safe in their homes. To best understand what makes a cat feel safe, we look at the life of a cats in nature. In the wild, may cats prefer to live in familiar social groups, but they hunt and eat alone. When cats feel threatened by another cat, a predator, or other threat, they climb and hide to avoid these perceived dangers. Fighting is the last resort when all other avoidance techniques have failed.
Having a safe place to climb and hide is integral to a cat’s well being. Cats like to go vertical. Height gives cats the ability to survey the area for potential danger and makes them feel secure. If there is more than one cat in the home, there are some extra measures required to provide a safe space. Cats may use the physical space to assert status. As I said, cats prefer hiding and avoidance to conflict. Conflict between cats intensifies around food, water, litter boxes, and cherished resting places. And mealtime from a bowl in a multicat household, as highlighted in this study, is a major source of conflict.
Understanding the way that our cats see their world and how they feel safe in it, is the first step to successful cat ownership. With a few simple additions to our homes, we can create a world where our cats natural instincts are met.
For more information on feeding the multicat household, click here https://nobowlcat.com/pages/multicat-households
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