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How Many Social Groups Live in Your House?

Sep 18, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Last week, I helped with an interview for Cat Fancy Magazine about litterbox matters. It is always good to remind everyone of the principals of a clean bathroom for our housecats. A bigger question arises from that though and that is, “do you know how many social groups live in your house?” This question is central to solving many issues that create stress in a household in which more than one unrelated cat lives.

In my home, there are two house cats. The first one to move in with us is Bodaishin. He was a six year old intact male when we rescued him two years ago. As many people do, my husband and I live very busy lives and are often out of the house for long periods of time. I concluded that Bo was not getting as much of a lively life as I thought he should have. I contacted the breeder from whom I acquired Bo about another cat. (The story of his life and why he needed to come to us is another story)

There was an 18 month old intact male who wasn’t a very good example of his breed so, like Bo, he was living by himself in a small enclosure. Perfect, a youngster who needed a new life. Oddly, his breeder dropped him off at my practice and departed before we could meet and talk about “Andy”.

He was a freaked out, unsocialized kid who thought we were going to kill him. It took weeks before he calmed down. During that time, we had, not a two cat household, but a “one plus one” household. Neither we nor Bo could get near him and Bo seemed none too pleased at the home invasion by this interloper.

We had a room for Andy which contained a cat tree, a big 28 quart clothing storage box for a litterbox, food and water bowls and toys. Every day, we sat quietly in the room waiting for him to approach. Bo was not allowed into the room. After a time, he learned that he was safe and began to allow petting and slowly but surely we began to integrate him into the rest of the house. Bo was very interested in him as time went on.

Six months later, both cat trees are in the living room. The two litterboxes remain, as well as the separate food and water spots. We assumed that we would continue to be a “one plus one” household. Much to our surprise, and quite slowly Bo and Andy began to play together, shooting through the house and wrestling. Even more slowly and surprisingly, they began to groom one another, sleep in the same bad curled up like yin and yang, and rub each other entwining tails in passing. It may have helped that Bodaishin is Andy’s grandfather, a fact I found out much later.

So now we are a “two cat” household with one big social group that includes my husband and me. The key to knowing which is which are the three behaviors:

  • Sleeping entwined,
  • Grooming each other often, and
  • Rubbing each other willingly in passing.

It isn’t important to the cats whether we humans engage in these behaviors, but it might not be a bad idea!

Dr Elizabeth Colleran

Diplomate ABVP Specialty in Feline Practice

Dr Colleran attained both her Masters (in Animals and Public Policy) and Doctorate from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. She opened Chico Hospital for Cats in 1998 and the Cat Hospital of Portland in 2003. In 2011, she became President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Dr Colleran is a member with: American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, and American Association of Feline Practitionesr.

Chico Hospital for Cats
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Cat Hospital of Portland
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