Even if you already own several books about cats, you should add Cat Vs. Cat to your collection. This guide by feline behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett focuses on the specific topic of multi-cat households, along with also providing information about the territorial nature of cats. In doing so, Bennett has written an interesting and thorough handbook on how to create and maintain a peaceful household when you live with more than one cat.
The feline hierarchy is important to understand because, unlike dogs who are pack animals, cats are more particular about their social structure. While they can indeed be social, they don’t view themselves as equals, and therein lies the dilemma. What further complicates the matter is not only do they have a pecking order, but this may change depending on who is in the room and what events are taking place. Bennett explains in great detail how to pay attention to each individual cat’s communication to best avoid conflicts. She covers every possible aspect of it, including how cats use their eyes, ears, tail, whiskers, hair, and even vocalization and posture when taking their defensive or their offensive status.
My most-applied chapter is “New Introductions”. Although you can find a variety of articles online about the topic, and many of these articles probably draw from the advice of Bennett herself, Bennett’s chapter pulls everything together in one place. There’s information about sanctuary rooms, the sock and room exchange, allowing cats to see one another, along with tips on what to do if things are progressing nicely or aren’t going well. Bennett even includes suggestions that I didn’t find online such as swapping litter scents. Every time I read even just this one chapter, I came away with new ideas.
Other chapters in Cat Vs. Cat build on the above ideas. In them, Bennett covers pretty much every situation imaginable when it comes to cat introductions. These include: food, play, litter box, scratching behavior, aggression, and stress. But Bennett doesn’t simply limit herself to how these topics apply to multi-cat households. No, she also throws in advice of what products are the best and how to care for them.
In fact, by now you may have noticed a common trait. Bennett doesn’t skim the surface with her advice but instead is thorough in her approach. She covers ground with so much detail that I’d actually suggest reading Cat Vs. Cat once for a broad overview. Then reread relevant chapters as needed. Doing the latter is how I realized that scolding my first cat for hissing at my second cat might inadvertently be increasing her negative behavior. Once I started using redirects, both cats became more playful and more open to sharing space.
Upon first reading, Cat Vs. Cat may feel overwhelming to relatively new cat owner. Each chapter runs around twenty pages and is fairly exhaustive, but the material is also vitally important. Our cat, Cinder, has not only survived the introduction of a second cat, but has even learned to feel comfortable with her. I credit Pam Johnson-Bennett with this success.