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Find out more about multi-cat households and whether getting another cat is right for your pet in our free guide.

Multi-cat households

Cats are naturally solitary and often prefer being the only pet in the home. If you have more than one cat or are considering getting another cat, there’s a lot to think about first. Take a look at our video for more information on multi-cat households:

Getting more than one cat

While some cats may enjoy the company of other cats, this is not natural cat behaviour as they are generally territorial. In the wild, cats usually live alone, guarding their territory against other cats so that they always have enough food and water. When feral cats do form colonies, it tends to be due to a large, reliable source of food in one place, and colonies are often made up of related female cats and their offspring.

Before getting another cat, you need to think about whether your cat or cats already at home would want this and whether they are likely to accept another cat in their space.

For cats to live well together, you need:

  • plenty of space. They need to be able to have their own space away from each other when they need it, including space up high
  • to introduce them slowly. The cats need to see each other as belonging to the same social group
  • enough resources. There can be no competition over resources such as food, water, beds and toys

Remember, you have a legal duty of care to provide for your cat's needs, which includes their need to be housed with or apart from other animals.

How can I help my cats get along?

If you have more than one cat, you need to closely monitor their body language to make sure they are happy and not feeling stressed by the situation. You can read more in our free guide on cat body language.

The main thing that will help your cats get along is resources (food bowls, water bowls, litter trays, beds, etc.). You should allow for one per cat, plus one spare. They should be spaced out around the home so each can have their own space when accessing food and therefore they don’t feel threatened or worried that another cat will take it from them. Find out about creating the perfect home for cats in our guide.

Neutering all the cats in your home will also help, especially if you have a male and female cat. It will prevent any unwanted pregnancies and can make cats less territorial (and so more likely to accept another cat in the home). Take a look at our advice on neutering.

You can also use a pheromone diffuser in your home to help ease any tension. It won’t fix any problems your cats are having with each other, but may help to make them feel more relaxed if you are introducing another cat into your home. You can purchase a pheromone diffuser through our partners, Feliway.

If you currently don’t have cats but are thinking of getting more than one, littermates are more likely to get along than two unrelated cats or kittens.

How can I tell if my cats are getting along?

There’s a big difference between cats getting along and just tolerating each other but the signs can be subtle to pick up on. Some cats may accept other cats in the home but still be unhappy about it and prefer to stay away from them.

If your cats are truly getting along, they will have accepted each other into their social group. Signs of this include:

  • seeking each other out for company
  • sleeping touching (we’ve all seen photos of well-bonded cats curled up with each other)
  • grooming each other
  • rubbing up against each other

If you’re seeing the above signs, the chances are your cats are very happy in each other’s company. If you have more than two cats, you might notice a number of different social groups forming – some cats may bond with each other, and some might not. It’s important to make sure they have places to be alone if they haven’t bonded or simply only tolerate other cats in the home.

Signs your cats are not getting along include:

  • hissing, swiping at one another and fighting
  • avoiding each other
  • staring at each other
  • one cat blocking another from resources

If your cats aren’t getting along, you will need to make sure they have separate areas of the house with all of their resources so they feel safe and not in competition with the other cat. Don’t force them to spend time together and make sure they each have their own ways to get in and out of your home.

How to introduce cats

When you introduce your cat or cats to a new cat, you must take it very slowly, whether you’re introducing them to another adult cat or a kitten. If you rush the process, it’s likely they won’t get along.

Make sure you have the space to allow the new cat to settle in before making any introductions. It can be unsettling for a cat or kitten to be in a new environment without facing another cat on top of that!

Find out more in our full guide:

How to introduce cats

Will my adult cat accept a new kitten?

Some adult cats are more likely to accept a new kitten in their home over another adult cat. This is because the kitten hasn’t reached sexual and social maturity yet and so the adult cat sees them as less of a threat. You still need to introduce them slowly – while your kitten may seem excited by another cat, your adult cat might not be so excited to see the kitten.

Sometimes kittens can be a bit high energy for adult cats who have settled into a nice easy life of regular naps and playtime when they want it. This is especially true if you have a senior cat who won’t be able to keep up with a kitten as well.

Make sure you tire your kitten out with lots of play before face-to-face time with your other cat. Give your cat the option to hide or get up high somewhere your kitten can’t get to.

Should I get a male or female cat for my existing cat?

Firstly, remember that your existing cat may not want a new friend at all so you might well be better off not getting another cat.

There’s no evidence to suggest a cat may prefer one gender over another. It is more important to match their personalities. Make sure both cats are neutered before introducing them, especially if you have a male and female, to prevent unwanted litters. Read more about neutering.

When looking for another cat if you already have a cat or cats at home, you should consider:

  • their age – your mature adult cat may not like a young playful cat
  • if they are neutered – neutered cats are less likely to feel territorial and challenged by other cats
  • their personality – if your cat likes to use your home as a place to nap, they won’t like a cat who likes to play indoors all the time
  • their health – if one of the cats is unwell or has an ongoing health issue, it might make them feel weaker and threatened by other cats
  • their socialisation – how well they adapt can depend on how well socialised they were to other cats as young kittens
  • their experiences with other cats – if your cat is the type to chase other cats out of the garden, bringing a second cat into the home may not be such a good idea

My cat has lived with other cats before – is it cruel to keep them alone?

If your cat has lived with other cats previously, or they lived with another cat who has died, it’s important not to rush into getting another cat.

If their companion has died, you need to give them time and space to adjust to the loss. Many cats who were previously in multi-cat households but suddenly find themselves alone adapt very quickly to this. In fact some of them really blossom on their own and love having a house to themselves!

Also, even though your cat has gotten along with other cats before, this doesn’t mean they will get along with a new cat. They can be very specific about which individual cats they get along with, rather than generally being sociable with all cats. If you do decide to get another cat you need to choose very carefully to find a cat who won’t clash with your current cat.

Re-introducing cats after a break

If your cats are apart for any reason, such as a stay at the vets, then their scent may be affected and they may not be recognised as part of their social group when they return. The longer a cat is away, the harder it can be to reintegrate.

Try keeping the returning cat apart so they can pick up the smells of home, collect and swap the scents of the cats on a clean cloth to investigate at their own pace, and then gradually reintroduce them.

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