How important is available space in multi-cat homes in terms of cat welfare?
A study concluded that increasing the area for a group of cats confined to a specific area resulted in the cats playing more and being more active. They concluded that this indicated that they were more content and that extra space resulted in improved cat welfare. Note: the capitalised letters have been added for emphasis.
"In this study we examined the social and spatial behaviour in large groups of cats, as well as stress related body postures (using the Cat-Stress-Score) and if there were any changes within a stable group of 15 cats kept at different floor areas of 1 square meter, 2 square meters and 4 square meters PER CAT. Based on our results we conclude that increasing the area for group housed cats promote more play and general activity. Play can be an indicator of positive welfare for the cats."
They collected cats from shelters and used a fixed space in a research facility where the cats had varying amounts of space to themselves: one square metre, 2 m² and 4 m². The greater the space the more content they were is my interpretation of the summary of this research project.
|Cats demand personal space like people. Photo in public domain.|
There has to be a commonsense appraisal of this because the result doesn't surprise me at all. This is because an individual male domestic cat probably would naturally require an area up to around 50 acres. It will vary and it might be a smaller at about 10 acres and for female cats it will be smaller still but the space that they naturally require is going to be much larger than that they are allowed if they are full-time indoor cats. And even if they are allowed outside into a garden enclosure it is still unnaturally small.
In the study they were confined to a much smaller area and when allowed to expand into a larger area they became more content which, as mentioned, was predictable.
The point of this very brief discussion is that the amount of space allowed to a domestic cat can have an impact upon their stress levels and therefore their contentment and as a result their general welfare and health.
This is a point that needs to be remembered by people who desire to look after several cats in perhaps a small house or even an apartment.
Of course, domestic cats are adaptable and they will adapt to the smaller area and it depends on the relationship between the cats but it is better that they don't need to adapt as there is always this underlying instinct to live within an area of up to around 50 acres. This figure of up to 50 acres comes from other research studies. There have been many on this topic.
The study referred to: The effect of space on behaviour in large groups of domestic cats kept indoors - Sept 2016.