Multiple Cat: My Experience
Multiple Cat Household
To write this basically I have to tell the story chronologically because, as each of 8 cats was introduced into my household, things happened. My first two cats were tiny kittens we got in a dollar store. Seriously. Two teenager were carrying around two tiny kittens and they came up to us and asked if we would take them; their mother wouldn't keep them. I knew if I didn't get them hydrated and warmed and stop the teenagers from constantly handling them they would die. The kittens were only about two-three weeks old. These were my first rescued kitten orphans but fortunately a friend who was an expert was visiting and coached me. Jasmine and Jasper got the best of care and my husband and I decided to keep them. [I hadn't rescued cats before because I used to have an allergic reaction to them - but with these two babies, the reaction wasn't there].
Jasper and Jasmine had different personalities even though their looks were almost identical. The main difference was that Jasper was more curious and observed my husband up close and personal when he was doing something in the house. We live on a busy street, that and the many other arguments for keeping cats inside resulted in us keeping them exclusively indoors.
We both cried and cried. We were on a trip and the house sitter was careless and left the back door open and Jasper got out. In no time, his curiosity took him into the road where he was hit and killed. What happened next would affect the future of our household. Jasmine became timid and afraid....not afraid of us but if a noise startled her when we were petting her, we had to be careful she didn't dig in with claws and fly away, leaving us with scratches. It became a priority never to traumatize Jasmine again. I continued to foster kittens and she was fine with them, not afraid, not irritable.
Lydia Joins Jasmine
The first litter I had after Jasper's death, was a iitter of five found by the lake. Five is no minor challenge,...they looked healthy but were only three weeks old....it would take me forty five minutes to bottle feed the five....and then three hours later it was start all over again. Two were almost identical but Lydia had a spot on her nose.....sure enough she was the hardest to bottle feed....she stopped and started....and the only thing that seemed to work is if I looked her directly in the eye every time I fed her. For some strange reason, she was the last in the litter. All others were adopted. Now she is a gorgeous long hair cat who I adopted originally to keep Jasmine company. To this day she remembers the bottle feeding and wants eye contact when she sits on my lap.
Now We Become a Multiple Cat Household
Age seems to make a big difference in dominance. My first two cats are large females. When Zeke came into the household he was 2 weeks old. My older cats always understood that kittens were babies and fragile and so treated them very carefully. Jasmine and Lydia would also let the kitten get away with things that adult fosters couldn't do like cuddling up to them or sharing the food bowl. So Zeke was easily accepted and within a year was the largest cat in the house. He too was very accepting of kittens and really adult fosters too.
Boarding Cats Adopted
Really a Multiple Cat Household: Boarding Cats Adopted
When I adopted my two boarding cats....they didn't know the other three cats because they had been kept separate. They were both really nice cats aged 4 and 6. They had lived with me for two years and the owner still hadn't decided what to do. I told her it was a time for them to have a permanent home so she surrendered them to me.
Once introduced into the household, there was never any testing of position on the part of Max, he just accepted Zeke as the dominate male. In fact, Max has such a mellow personality he has never had any friction with any cat. He's confident and stands up to other cats but has never done any fighting. My second boarding cat Fiona was a whole different story. She exuded insecurity and started to get picked on some by Zeke and Jasmine. By picked on I don't mean fights...they would bat at her or chase her some. It wasn't anything serious except I did not want her to get more insecure and develop neurotic behaviors.
So we needed to open up space so the cats could spread out. I had learned this from Jackson Galaxy on his show "My Cat From Hell." Making more space could mean shelves and it worked great.
Shelves to Open Up Space
Soon Fiona had her own spaces she claimed. She took the desk in the front bedroom. And I always fed her there. Her favorite space was next to me on the couch where I worked on the computer. Soon no other cat bothered her and once in awhile she even got sassy with some.
Max on the other had felt comfortable any where, window sill, cat tree, on the bed in spare bedroom. He particularly like laying on my husband's legs when he was in the recliner. There was never any tension between him and the other male, Zeke. They more or less ignored each other and there wasn't any dominance issue.
Multipy Multiple Cat
Multiple Cat Household: 7 Cats
I am not sure of the exact timing of this. But I had fostered Blaze, the beautiful red swirled tabby from three months of age. Unfortunately at that age he was quite feral. In the picture above you see the bars of a cat condo. That's how badly he would show at adoption events, huddled in a corner afraid. I used to have to corner him and grab him to go in a carrier to adoption events. He never tried to scratch or bite but no one at events wanted a scared cat. This went on for most of a year. I told the rescue, enough.....he is happy at my house....he gets along with all the other cats...he is no trouble ....let me adopt him. Lydia and Jasmine both treated him like a kitten and liked him. And well the dominant male Zeke who was huge by this time became his best big brother.
Blaze Fitting in Multiple Cat Household
Darcy Makes 7
Meanwhile there was a large male black cat in another foster home. He had a very rough beginning with us.....he was living feral at a farm, about 12 weeks old, being fed.....we were unable to catch him. The farmer caught him 1 week later but not until he been attacked by another cat and had a bad head would. The wound would heal but the kitten had to be kept in a condo in seclusion in case he had contracted rabies from the bite. His was name Darcy and he was quarantined for a month, then given all his shots and neutered. After this experience he was more afraid of people than ever. For four months he hid from the foster family except to eat in the kitchen twice a day. After eating, he would be gone upstairs hiding.
I asked the rescue if I could work with him since he was making no progress and I worked at home all day and had the time. So the cat was moved to my house. For months he hid under the bed, sticking his body half way out to eat. He never bothered the other cats and quickly made friends with Blaze, my other semi-feral cat.
While both these male cats have made great progress in accepting affection from me and my husband, even seeking it out, their basic personalities have remained timid. I think it would be very tricky to have three large males in a multiple cat household but it works in mine because the two younger males are timid. I do not foresee that they will ever challenge Zeke's dominance and I believe they will always see Lydia and Jasmine as mother figures. One really happy thing that happened, is that Max the mellow cat, brings them out to wrestle in the living room. Also both Blaze and Darcy now sit on the couch with me and let me pet them.
Darcy Makes Friends
Last But Not Least
Truth be told some cats cannot integrate into a multiple cat household. Here is Cio Cio the last addition to my household. See my other hub about her and aggression: http://hildaspann.hubpages.com/hub/Cat-Aggression-My-Experience
Cio Cio San came to me at about 7 months of age...she had lived and fended for herself at all of 5 pounds for three months out of doors dealing with other strays. She learned that if she acted nasty and aggressive that usually the big old cat ran away. Interesting that it was confident Zeke, who decided to make friends and started asking to go into my bedroom where I kept Cio Cio secluded. I tried her in the general population but she picked on Jasmine, my first and most neurotic cat who didn't need the hassle. So I bring her out in the population but only if she is tethered or if she is in the thundershirt.
We Were Lucky: Multiple Cat House
I don't recommend anyone taking on 8 cats unless you are dealing with sibling groups or have a really large house with separate areas for groups of cats. One of the things that made things work in my situation, was that the cats coming in were less than a year old and came in one at a time. They were perceived by the older cats as kittens and not a threat. Also it was fortunate that the second, third, and fourth male cat were not dominant in any way. In addition I was fortunate with my first male, Zeke. His dominance is based on confidence not aggression. He really has no need to posture or prove himself. I believe that if his dominance was based on any sense of threat there would have been constant conflict in my household.