Sunday 11 December 2022

Are cats in multi-cat homes more stressed and if so does Feliway Friends help?

A grand multi-cat home
A grand multi-cat home. Highly organised and harmonious! Image: Pinterest.

To answer the first part of the question in the title: a study suggests that the number of cats in a household does not significantly impact the level of stress in individual cats. Other factors, such as the relationship with their owners and the availability of resources, may be more important in determining a cat's level of arousal and emotional distress. The study also found that young cats in multi-cat households had lower levels of stress hormones, and that cats who tolerate petting by their owners tend to have higher levels of these hormones (don't like being petted?). These findings suggest that social interactions and positive human-cat interactions may play a role in reducing stress in cats.

There will be some homes where stresses might build up because of the multi-cat environment where they wouldn't normally.

However, a review found that the available evidence on the impact of single versus multi-cat housing on stress in confined cats is limited and inconsistent. While some studies suggested that single housing may be less stressful for cats, others suggested that group housing was less stressful. The review also identified several other factors that may impact a cat's level of stress, such as the socialization status of the cats, the handling and enrichment provided, and the way in which groups were assigned. Overall, the review concludes that more research is needed to determine the optimal housing conditions for confined cats in order to maximize their welfare.

Do artificial pheromones work?

Another study evaluated the effectiveness of a new pheromone product (Feliway Friends) in reducing aggression between housemate cats. The study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial involving 45 multi-cat households with 2-5 cats each. The participants were given instructions on how to handle aggressive events and were provided with plug-in diffusers containing either the pheromone product or a placebo. Aggressive events were monitored using the Oakland Feline Social Interaction Scale (OFSIS), which assessed the frequency and intensity of 12 different aggressive interactions. The results showed that the use of the pheromone product significantly reduced aggression between housemate cats over time. The study concluded that the pheromone product is a promising treatment for managing aggression in multi-cat households.

The 3 studies in order:

  • Are multi-cat homes more stressful? A critical review of the evidence associated with cat group size and wellbeing
  • A critically appraised topic (CAT) to compare the effects of single and multi-cat housing on physiological and behavioural measures of stress in domestic cats in confined environments
  • Evaluation of the efficacy of an appeasing pheromone diffuser product vs placebo for management of feline aggression in multi-cat households: a pilot study

Comment: domestic cats are very adaptable. At home they have food, warmth and security. A degree of cooperation is needed to keep the group in relative harmony to take full benefit of the rewards on offer.

A source of food is a great motivator for cats to be sociable and get along as best as possible with home ranges that are much reduced from their natural size.

Note: I have deliberately relied on studies as they avoid anecdotal evidence which is often dubious. However, the summaries of the studies are in plain English.

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