Are two cats always better than one? Or are cats simply antisocial loners that will fight if kept together?
There are so many myths about the mysterious lives of our feline friends that in this blog I thought I would look at what is really going on!!!!
How do feral cats live?
To discover how our domestic felines should be kept we can start by looking at their feral counterparts.
Feral cats can form huge colonies of animals. Within these colonies there are generally smaller social groups consisting of related females (sisters, mums, aunties), that co-rear their young (even going as far as nursing other queen’s kittens).
The males are not quite the socialites that the females are and tend to live on the edges of the groups as loners and will (just like a Friday night in Kings Cross) fight with other males to compete for mates.
The number of cats living in a certain area will depend on the amount of resources available to share, most importantly food. If food & den areas are plentiful then huge numbers of cats can live alongside each other quite happily. However as the numbers of cats increase (and they do very quickly as cats are prolific breeders) squabbles break out and cats are forced out and so the groups can be quite changeable.
What about our domestic cats?
So most of our domestic cats are much more pampered than their feral counterparts. Large numbers of cats, male and female both related and unrelated can often live quite happily with each other and be very social. However having a cat living in the same house is a cause of anxiety for many of our feline friends, which can often go unnoticed until fights break out.
How can I tell if my cats are BFFs?
1. Tail up
Cats that are greeting each other with their tails up are happy to see each other, a sure sign they are probably friends!
Allogrooming, simply means grooming each other. Cats that see each other as the same social group will groom each other. This may be a way of increasing their bond, or simply a way of cleaning an area that is hard to reach for a friend! (Like putting suncream on someone’s back!).
Interestingly in some studies cats often groom each other more after a fight, so it also might be a way of saying sorry and making friends.
Allorubbing, simply means rubbing on each other. This is an act many cat owners will be familiar with, as this is something cats often do to your legs when you arrive home. This is likely to impart a ‘family’ odour to the group, so that all members are easily identified as well as being a tactile affirmation of friendship (a cat’s idea of a hug).
4. Eating and sleeping together
Cats that eat and sleep together are often close friends (like their human counterparts!), as during both these activities a cat could be vulnerable to attack.
Some signs that your cats are not the besties you thought they were:
Most of the time it is obvious that two (or more) cats do not get on. However some of the signs there is a problem afoot may be a little more subtle:
- Avoidance – cats that avoid each other at all costs – e.g. one enters the room and the other immediately leaves.
- Aggression – biting, fighting, hissing, growling, staring etc
- Inappropriate urination or defaecation
- Hiding away
- Marking the house (spraying, scratching etc)
So what can I do?
Always make sure you provide enough resources (litter trays, food bowls, resting places etc.) in different locations around the house. This will reduce the need for competition between family felines. Feliway is also always a great idea if you feel that two cats are not getting on as well as you would hope.
Relationships between cats can be complicated, so if you feel your cats are having problems please seek help early from your Veterinarian or a qualified Behaviourist.
Dr Julie is a qualified Veterinarian and Veterinary Behaviourist, she runs Life on Four Legs – a dog and cat behaviour clinic based in Sydney, NSW.