How to keep the peace in a multi-cat household (when rehoming is not an option)

“You make me so very happy
When you cuddle up and go to sleep beside me
And then you make me slightly mad
When you pee all over my Chippendale suite” Freddie Mercury     

One of the biggest issues with a multi-cat household is spraying cats. Cats who mark their territory on your window sill, your kitchen bench, your bed, your clothes and yes even your Chippendale suite as Freddie Mercury’s lyrics reveal in his song ‘Delilah’ dedicated to his favourite feline. Your stressed out kitty doesn’t discriminate when it comes to spraying!

I have four indoor cats and have definitely had my fair share of the pee wars! I’m not a pet behaviourist but I will share with you some useful information (based on my own personal experience) to hopefully help bring a little peace into your home when dealing with stressed, aggressive or spraying cats in a multi-cat household (when rehoming is not an option).

I’ll be honest, you may never completely eliminate the issue, as cats can be as complicated as they are adorable, but I will certainly share some ideas on how to manage the problems at hand so that everyone can relax again in your crazy cat household!

First things first, let’s assume your cat’s issues are non-health related. Your cat (or cats) has been medically screened at your vet and the possibility of a medical issue (such as urinary tract infections, struvite stones & crystals and more) has been completely eliminated. Now what?

Before we move on, we need to understand why a cat will spray indoors when they are such fastidious and clean little creatures. The short answer is because they are usually marking their territory when feeling threatened.

Spraying is a natural behaviour of a wild cat used for marking their territory…

To understand your feline, you need to get in contact with their wild instincts. Unlike dogs, cats haven’t veered too far away from their wild ancestors and still hold many of those traits. Spraying is a natural behaviour of a wild cat used for marking their territory and a way of cautioning other cats in the area. So if your kitty is feeling stressed or threatened by another cat, inside or outside the home, most likely, you may begin to see spraying around your home (especially in cats that are exclusively indoors).

If you are reading this, then you probably know that it is one of the most frustrating things that could ever happen in your home. Cat pee from spraying is incredibly smelly and it is very hard to remove, especially in carpeted areas. So if replacing your flooring to waterproof boards is not an option, you are going to need to purchase a good cleaner to break down that urine. The one that I use is Wee Off, you can click here to read all about it: (please note, I am not in affiliated with this company, it is just the one that has worked well for me).

Now it’s time to work on a solution to decrease the spraying or better yet, completely eliminate it. It’s not going to be an easy journey, and will require a bit of tough love!

If you have two cats in your household that used to get along and for some reason or another don’t anymore, you are going to need to separate them as soon as you can. It was my downfall when I didn’t do this immediately. I have four indoor cats. Two of my boys, who used to love each other (I’m talking grooming, cat napping, sleeping and eating together), turned on each other one afternoon in a horrendous cat fight.

So how can two cats who adored one another for 6 years, completely loathe each other in 5 minutes?

You need to separate both cats by setting up an individual basecamp within your home where the environment is safe, secure and stress free…

It’s now time to become a cat detective and work out what went wrong so that you are able to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Before you embark on this journey, you need to separate both cats by setting up an individual basecamp within your home where the environment is safe, secure and stress free. This is where I made the mistake by continuing to leave my two together, and that is when the spraying started, big time. Milo was stressed because Charlie was in his territory. Poor Charlie was stressed because he was being bullied and pushed out of his territory; it was a nightmare for them and us.

I read numerous articles on Google, hired a pet behaviourist and even tried natural herbs and acupuncture with Milo (the aggressor) as well as calming herbs for Charlie (the victim). All wonderful healing modalities, but they are never going to work effectively if you don’t address the root cause first.

My issue boiled down to a stray that was hanging around our home. I befriended this little stray and set up some shelter and food for him on our front patio, right in front of the window where Milo liked to sunbathe. Milo didn’t hiss at the cat, so I thought all was ok. Little did I know that the stress was brewing inside of him and because he couldn’t access the outdoors to chase the stray away, his territorial stress was redirected to his brother Charlie (known as redirected aggression).

Once I had worked out the issue and my little stray was rehomed, I thought there would be peace again in our household. But the damage was done. Milo no longer accepted Charlie, and Charlie was still frightened of Milo and the numerous spraying episodes continued in our home on a daily basis.

Rehoming one of them was never going to be an option for me. I adore my cats and they are my furry little children. So to eliminate the stress in the household, I knew that I had to finally separate them (each having their own comfortable space in a bedroom) and followed the protocols of @JacksonGalaxy (I’m a huge fan) for reintroducing cats. Here is the link on how to achieve this:

It was hard. I hated the fact that I had to separate my cats and I felt awful because Milo is such a social cat and loves being around us. But I knew I had to apply some tough love if I wanted some calm in the home.

So did it work? Yes and no. To be honest, Milo has always been a very territorial and jealous cat (he loves all of the attention and doesn’t like to share any of it!). What happened between Charlie & Milo that day was somehow ingrained in Milo’s brain, and he has never fully bonded with Charlie, the way their relationship used to be.

They are now permanently separated. Milo and his sister Ruby live half the day in their room set up with all the mod coms a cat could ever wish for (platforms, beds, heating in the winter & cooling in the summer, food, water and access to a beautiful outdoor cat enclosure) whilst Charlie and his brother Benji have the full run of rest of the house (as well as access to an outdoor cat enclosure).

The second half of the day and evening, Milo & Ruby spend with us, whilst Charlie & his brother are in their comfortable room. It works well. My cats are older now, and they sleep most of the day anyway. Cats also love routine, so they have adjusted really well. On weekends we all spend time together and sometimes Milo will groom Charlie (on his conditions), but one wrong move and Milo is ready to chase him again.

Will they ever be the same as they used to be? I remain hopeful but I am also a realist. What I am currently doing works well and everyone is happy.

You have a better chance of mending the relationship if you separate them straight away and follow the steps @JacksonGalaxy for reintroducing cats…

So my point is, cats are very territorial (some more than others) and if you have more than one cat, you may have some personality clashes. If you have a similar issue to mine, it’s best to get onto it as soon as the aggression starts, rather than hoping it will all work it out if you continue to leave them together. You have a better chance of mending the relationship if you separate them straight away and follow the steps @JacksonGalaxy for reintroducing cats.

Leave me a comment. I’d love to know how you mended your cat’s relationship issues (when rehoming wasn’t an option). What worked and what didn’t?

Use this quick check-box to get to the bottom of your cats spraying issues:

Possible Reason  
A medical issue – such as urinary tract infections, struvite stones & crystals, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, cancer and more  
You have enough litter boxes in your home – one per cat, plus one extra. For example, if you have 4 cats, you need 5 litter boxes placed around the home with easy access, not hidden in the laundry  
Your cat or cats have all been de-sexed (both males & females) – females can also spray  
There is a neighbourhood cat or a stray hanging around your home  
You have a new baby – the human kind  
You have a new puppy or kitten and haven’t introduced them properly – as per the re-introduction rules  
You have moved home or are getting ready to move  
A family member in the home has moved out  
A family member in the home has passed away  
You have rearranged your furniture or have new furniture  
You have renovated your home  
You have plenty of beds and perches around your home – your cats don’t have to compete for a comfortable bed  
You nurse/pet your cats equally – you don’t favour one cat over the other  
You play with your cats and keep them mentally stimulated – this definitely applies to indoor cats

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