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Many cat owners think they are doing their cats a favor by devoting a single area of the home, such as the basement, to all of their cats' resources and needs. In their well-intentioned attempt to create a sort of cat utopia, they are actually doing the opposite. During my career as a cat behaviorist, I have found spaces like this (especially in multi-cat households) to be the root of many behavioral problems.
To promote minimal conflict and territorial behavior between your cats, they must have multiple safe routes to and from shared resources such as litter boxes, food and water dishes, and scratching posts. A timid cat who must circumvent a more aggressive cat in order to use the litter box, for instance, may choose to create her own litter box behind the couch.
Instead, spread your cats' resources throughout your home. Provide clean and well-kept litter boxes on each floor of your home, and in well-lit areas; your cat shouldn't have to traverse the length of your home to find the box.
Food and water dishes (which should be far from litter boxes) should also be located in several locations throughout your home, and never side-by-side, as cats may avoid water that has been contaminated by the food they consider to be prey. Since cats prefer their water to be as fresh as possible, fill the bowls as often as you can (at least once per day) or invest in cat fountains.
Keep your cat stimulated and entertained by providing multiple perching areas, toys, and scratching posts throughout your home. Experiment with different locations until you've figured out the spots that your cats prefer.
By locating high-demand resources throughout your home you will help your cats get along better, relieve territorial tension, and reduce/eliminate the stress that causes many cats to exhibit undesirable behavior such as eliminating outside of the box or clawing the couch. By seeing the world through their eyes and creating an environment that supports their wildcat instincts, it's easy to create a true cat utopia.
Who is Mieshelle Nagelschneider?
Meet Mieshelle Nagelschneider, ACCBC, a cat behaviorist and author of the science-based cat behavior book, The Cat Whisperer (Random House Publishing). Her passion and curiosity about cats, along with her study in animal behavior, has enabled her to help thousands of cat owners solve their cats' behavior issues for over two decades.
Learn more at The Cat Behavior Clinic, and look for her new book!