July 14, 2016
Owning multiple cats
As multicat households go, ours is pretty large, not as large as it was a few years back admittedly (due, sadly, to “natural wastage” as the oldies gradually pass away), but still larger than most people would be comfortable with, and, if I am honest, also still larger than we would really like it to be. (Not saying exactly how many but it’s double figures although less than 20). How did it happen? Cat shows! In particular, showing “moggies” /domestics, non pedigrees, call them what you will, - and, way back when, doing a spot of rescue work as well. An absolutely fatal combination, trust me! A gorgeous kitten (or, as was often the case with us, kittens), arrives for rehoming and before you know it you are assessing them as potential non-pedigree show cat material – “mmm, lovely temperament, stunning markings, gorgeous to boot ….”. Then after, more often than not, a stonking start, storming to Best in Show at the first show, or shows, approaching adolescence gives rise to teenage tantrums and “I am NOT going to purr for the judge” or “I HATE shows , I HATE judges and I HATE the other cats there” outbursts, leading, inevitably (as non-pedigree cats are judged a fair amount on temperament amongst other things) to total retirement from the show scene at a very early age, leading, again inevitably, to a “replacement”, whilst the retirees end up living out the rest of their lives with us in comfort and luxury as no cat was ever passed on from here because it stopped winning! Result – a (large) multicat household comprising about 5% show cats, 10% retired older show cats and 85% “failed” show cats! The “pros” of this are plenty of purring furry company, warm laps and high levels of entertainment (who needs television when you have several cats intent on amusing you), “cons” are, obviously, costs – food, litter, vet bills etc. But for any genuine cat lover those pros definitely outweigh the cons!
Multiple cat household: advantages and problems
One question that is always asked is “Do they all get on?”. The honest answer is “yes, most of them do most of the time but, there are some who tolerate (just about) each other rather than rubbing along nicely”, I’d be a liar to say otherwise, so there ARE spats and scuffles and fallings out, but then there are in any large gathering, just look at football crowds! Generally there are no serious fights but at times we do have to step in to prevent escalation, and there are times when ignoring each other gives way to antagonising and winding up and fisticuffs - it’s how we face multi cat household aggression. So here comes the question: How do we fix this multi cat household problem? The answer is simple: the best way is to split cats into 3 rooms overnight, making sure the ones who are not buddy buddies are in different rooms so we can all have a peaceful night’s sleep (as much as any night’s sleep can be peaceful with a cat taking up most of your pillow whilst purring loudly in your ear!); and from breakfast to supper we allow them to have the run of the bungalow, except for bathroom and kitchen (some things ARE sacred, well, OK, scrub that, we do tend to have an eager audience for all things appertaining to ablutions if we forget to close the bathroom door firmly ….), plus they have free access via a cat flap to a large outdoor run, well, cat garden, OK, it USED to be our garden but that was a long time ago, in fact, LOTS of things used to be ours, like the sofa, the bed, fillet steak, time, but that was also a long time ago.
Multiple cats feeding
Feeding the hungry hoards is akin to a military operation. I have colour coded dishes (yes, seriously) so that I get the food right as a few are on a different wet or dried food to the others and each cat has its own feeding place, to which they very obligingly run as I approach with the dishes, even if, after eating all the “best” (usually wet) bits from their own dish they do tend to try to sneak some off the dish next to them. Two main meals a day, a lunchtime snack in between, and any dried food not finished at breakfast is popped into a puzzle feeder to try to slow down the hoovers and give the pickers a chance, there is NEVER any wet food left over!
Litter trays and other challenges
Of course what goes in, eventually, and inevitably, has to come out, preferably from the opposite end, although Rascal does tend to be a serial gobbler/upchucker with a twice a week gobble, vomit, gobble routine. The throwing up is OK, sort of, unless he decides that night time is a good time for this trick and does not manage to jump off the bed in time! Then it’s gobble, upchuck, (“RASCAL! NO! Nooooooo!), gobble, whilst I am desperately trying to clean up the bed with loo roll. Add to this the geriatric twins who at times forget where the litter tray is (seriously, though, just HOW comfortable can using a hard, cold, granite Tigga Towers base as a loo be???) and I think that I am probably personally responsible for the destruction of at least one rain forest per annum. Anyway, back to the point I was going to make, which was, litter trays. Now I know that the pet behaviourists recommend one tray per cat plus one over, and I am sure that in a perfect, 4 cats or less, world, I would adhere to that but, well, if I did then we would be overrun with litter trays, instead of being simply over run with mice in the garage - but that’s a whole new story! So we compromise at one tray shared between two plus one over. It seems to work, there are one or two “accidents” from time to time (apart from the geriatrics referred to earlier) if someone has been caught short or in retaliation at a spot of bullying or intimidation but most of the time it’s fine. I just don’t like to dwell on the monthly, let alone annual, cost of cat litter, however!
Towers toys and furniture for multiple cat household
And so to toys. Dozens of them, hundreds over the years, and probably 80% of them under/behind/down the back of the sofa at any one time. Favourites are definitely the infamous red dot and toys on wands that have sparkly bits at the end, plus anything that can be scooted around the laminate floors at great speed and with a satisfyingly high level of noise. And, of course, climbers. So what do you buy the multicat household that has everything? A Tigga Towers of course!
Now, over the years our lot have destroyed more climbers than the proverbial hot dinners, so, having come into a little money recently, we took the plunge and decided to test out Tigga Tower’s claims, and see what all the fuss made by happy Tigga Towers owners of our acquaintance was all about. Due to the build quality and price tag I had already named Tigga Towers “the Rolls Royce of cat climbers”. I now think they are more like the drug barons of the feline fraternity and the majority of our lot are addicts! We do have a few (3 to be precise) who have totally and steadfastly ignored the huge towers that now dominate one end of the dining room. But, as with all addictive substances there are always some who have never tried it, are not interested in trying it, and intend never to try it.
The second group are the occasional users. These cats hop on and have a doze, or a scratch, from time to time but they can take the Tigga Towers or leave it, they can walk away and sleep elsewhere, they can go out and play, they have lives outside of Tigga Towers but they do enjoy their TT time as well. The next group, roughly a similar number to the occasional users, are the habitual users. These cats sleep on the Tigga Towers tower beds for hours on end, they enjoy sharpening their claws on the resilient sisal rope, they like playing “musical TT beds” where they will move into a recently vacated bed just in case it is better than the one they were occupying and they will share, but only if absolutely necessary as all the other beds are full. At mealtimes, however, they happily jump down and desert the Tigga Towers for food.
Then, finally, we have the 110% hooked Tigga Towers addicts. These cats WILL come down to be fed if absolutely necessary but, if they can catch me in a lenient mood, will simply sit in the bed and wait to be served. If they HAVE to come down to be fed they will eat up quickly then will hop back up as soon as they have finished eating and will spend 70-80% of their sleeping hours (which, as is usual with cats, is most of them) in a Tigga Towers bed, coming down only for real emergencies such as having to use the litter tray or grab a quick drink. They will lie a while on their own then will seek out a co-addict to share with, even if other beds are empty, often ending up with 3 to a bed. These cats, in a former life, just a few short months ago, used to be normal, active(ish) felines, interacting with the others and taking time out on a lap or two, now, with the addiction past the point of no return, they simply alternate between snoring and moving into a pile, then snoring again, totally, and utterly, under the influence. Sadly I fear there is no hope for these poor souls, destined forever to languish in a semi-comatose state 4 or 5 feet above the ground in a comfy, “saggy” Tigga Towers bed, being waited on hand and paw. It’s a tough old life!