Saturday, September 3, 2016

It's Caturday! Trading Spaces?

It's Saturday, time to share a little bit about my cats, The Hellions. We are currently staying with family who own five cats, so now there are seven cats in the house. How do we keep the peace?There are a lot of ways to help reduce inter-kitty conflict, but they aren't always intuitive.
Cats need to be able to get away from it all, especially other cats.

Cats Are Solitary

Years ago, I read a paper on reducing conflict between cats in the same household. It started by explaining how wild cats share territory and resources. African lions are well-known for living in family groups, but most feline species live and hunt alone. Territories frequently overlap, and more than one animal may use the same water source or hunting grounds. Wild cats avoid conflicts with other individuals by simply avoiding one another. (This also works really well for misanthropic humans.) If another cat is getting a drink, they either wait or go find somewhere else to drink. 

We make it difficult for our domestic cats to practice proper kitty misanthropy. Having one bowl of water, one bowl of food, and one litterbox for multiple cats sets them up to come nose-to-nose multiple times a day. It also gives them the opportunity to go on little kitty power trips. "Oh, you wanted to get a drink? Well I'm just going to hang out here by the water dish...until you die."

If two cats don't cuddle and groom each other, they're probably just tolerating one another.Some housecats are good at sharing, they have functional family groups just like a pride of lions, or a family of cheetahs. Cats that are genuinely social, rather than just tolerating, tend to groom each other and snuggle up together. They don't usually mind sharing resources with their buddy. James and Solstice are littermates that are very social together, but not with other cats. They can share a puzzle bowl or a nap spot. When it's not super hot, they can often be found wrapped up in a heap. However, they do have their disagreements so I like to make sure they each have their own bowl of squishy food, and more than one place to get water or use a litterbox.

Cats Are Vertical

Dogs are easy, dogs live on the ground. Humans also live on the ground, and I think we forget that not all pets are happy down here on a single plane of existence. Cats LOVE vertical space. Having places to climb and perch makes them feel safe and secure. It also helps keep them from coming nose to nose with the other cats in the household. If a room is relatively uncluttered, a cat on the floor is in direct line of sight with any other cat that enters. If they have a nice place above floor-level, they can watch the other cat pass through without stressing about it.

Vertical space is also an excellent way to prevent or reduce conflict between dogs and cats. Cats feel more secure when they can easily get out of reach, and dogs don't usually get the urge to chase a cat that's hanging out on top of the fridge.

Cats need more than the floor!Carpeted cat trees are an obvious choice for elevated cat hangouts, but not everyone has the space, money, or aesthetic for those. SuperZoo had some really neat suction-mounted shelves, beds, and bowls, as well as a cat tree that hangs on the back of a door! I am particularly fond of wall shelves as cat space, you can make them fit any space and decor. My current project is a set of wall shelves for James and Solstice, to help them move around the bedroom without getting down at dog-level. Ready-made shelves and brackets are easy to find at the hardware store, but I'm planning to staple carpet or something onto mine to make sure they have some grip in case they lose their balance. 

Shelves can also help give your cats access to existing high spaces in your home, like the tops of cabinets and bookshelves. I like to have things arranged so that the cats can travel through most of the house without touching the floor. When I buy a house, I fully intend to make cutouts in the walls so The Hellions don't have to bother with doorways.

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