If you are a one cat family or a multi-cat family, there are some simple strategies you can bring into your home to help your feline feel more comfortable, calm and happy.

Offering access to separate and multiple areas with key environmental essentials such as play/rest areas, scratching, food, and toileting opportunities for your cat will decrease stress and promote calm.

The Environmental Needs Guidelines from The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) was published in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. Dr. Hazel C. Carney, WestVet’s Feline Behaviorist, is one of eight specialty veterinarians who contributed to the new Guidelines. The Guidelines center on five primary “pillars” of a healthy feline environment in a home, shelter or veterinary hospital. You may access the full document HERE. In this blog post, we’ll address the second pillar,“Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources.”

What are the key resources each cat needs?

The environmental resources that are critical for a happy cat include feeding, drinking, toileting, claw scratching, play and resting/sleeping areas. The AAFP recommendations suggest that these key resources are made available in multiple locations and always separate from one another. Long considered solitary survivors, cats need free access to these items without being challenged by other cats or other potential threats.

There are numerous benefits to creating multiple locations for resources. AAFP's 2013 A Cat's Environmental Needs by Dr. Hazel C. Carney, DVMSeparating a cat’s daily physical resources enlarges its habitat, satisfying the cat’s natural need for exploration and exercise. In a multi-cat home, separate feeding areas allow cats to avoid the stress that can be associated with a feeding competition. In addition, separate resources reduce the risk of stress and stress-associated diseases. When water and food are in separate areas, cats drink more water, which has many health benefits.

Not only do inside resources create a positive environment. When safe and possible, outdoor locations for the key resources can keep your cat purring. Utilize a water fountain or a rain-collection dish for an outdoor water source. A quiet, private area with rake-able surfaces like sand or soil could offer a suitable toileting area.  Be aware that food should not be placed outdoors if other animals have access to it.

Another important note regarding homes with multiple cats: cats may be part of a social group or behave as a solitary cat, so it’s possible for several social groups to co-exist peacefully within the same household. Each group and/or cat should have its own, separate feeding stations so they do not have to share with access to other groups.

Multi-Cat Owners: Are your cats part of the same social group?

If you have several cats in your home, they may be living as a group, or as individual cats. Here are a few of behaviors you will see among cats that positively affiliate with one another:

  • Facial rubbing or body rubbing between cats
  • Tail wrapping
  • Resting or sleeping in physical contact or close proximity
  • Playing together
  • Grooming one another

Our cats can be wonderful, mysterious creatures. With a few adjustments to their environment, as owners, we can create a home that will be enjoyable, stress-free and safe.

Previously, our blog post “Providing a Safe Place” discussed the first pillar of AAFP, you can read that post HERE.


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