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Does Each Cat in a Multicat Home Need Personal Space?

If one of your cats seems to be off, try giving him his own space; the outcome might surprise you.

 |  Jan 31st 2014  |   13 Contributions


The departure of one cat may or may not really shake things up in a multi-cat household. Recently, my cat Chester went into a period of grieving after his cat buddy Karma passed on pretty suddenly. I did everything I could think of to help him through this process and try to get him to be his normal, happy self again. Now, maybe I should have let him be, knowing that we all have to go through our processes. Maybe he would have eventually pulled through. Instead, I tried to help.

Recently, another solution presented itself, which seems to be working well. I gave Chester some personal space from the rest of the cats. I have an office that is separate from our house and I began to take him to the office for short periods of time.  

To my surprise, Chester turned into a totally different and happier cat when he had more personal space and alone time with me. The transformation was startling and immediate. He played and vocalized more than he would in the house. He was more secure about eating (Chester has always been less aggressive about his food than the rest of the cats). He purred much more in the private office space. And he was more willing to snuggle. He completely relaxed when I held him. In the house, he wiggled a lot more when being held.

Chester tolerating being held by me...he does much better at this in the office.

The time in the office has really helped Chester's progression through his grief process, overall. I was quite concerned about Chester when he sunk into grieving and began moving less, hiding, and refusing to eat. After trying many things, and sensing that perhaps Chester needed time from the other cats, we tried the office solution. I'm convinced it has really helped.

He's only interested in being in the office if I am there. When I get up to go, he wants to go, too. He really enjoys eating in the office, without the pressure of the other cats going after his food. Chester is mild-mannered and doesn't defend his food, as some cats will.

Tips for giving your cat personal space

Do you have a bedroom or a place where you can shut the door and be alone with your cat, at least temporarily? Some cats really appreciate the alone time. My black cat Rama has a special way of telling me that he wants snuggle time -- alone -- in the bedroom. He'll run to the bedroom, catching my eye, when the bedroom is devoid of other cats. Then, I make sure to shut the door. If another cat somehow slips in, the mood is ruined, and Rama jumps off the bed and leaves. Alone time is important to him.

You don't need a huge amount of space for this to work. My office is tiny (16-by-16 feet, the size of some bedrooms). Chester has enthusiastically chased his toys in the office, something I've had a hard time getting him to do in the bigger house.

Your cat may only need a little time in the personal-space place. Chester loves being out in the office with me, but when I come back to the house, he's ready to come with me. I can tell by observing him that he's enjoyed his alone time, and now he's ready to be with the rest of his buddies.

Chester relaxes in the office and hogs my chair.

Most of all, observe. Does your cat act differently when they get more personal space? Do they act more like themselves? To see my grieving cat suddenly happy, purring, playing, and eating more securely was really significant to me.

Chester seems to love the office so much that I think I'm going to keep taking him out there with me for part of the day. Chester gets along well with the four other cats in the household, but after many months and years of observation, I think that these times alone for him are really a good thing. More than the others, Chester seems to need his personal space. I think that figuring this out has definitely helped him through the grieving process, and maybe even contributes to overall health.

Have you ever found that your cat needed more personal space? What have you done to facilitate this? Share your insights in the comments.

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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of a short story collection about people and place. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.

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