The success of a group cat room is directly tied to stress control. The focus should be on eliminating sources of stress where possible, minimizing those that cannot be eliminated – and then empowering cats with ways to cope with unavoidable stress.
Keep reading to learn the key elements you’ll want to incorporate in your planning.
Populating and Managing Your Cat Room
- With the active involvement of your shelter veterinarian, create a protocol for identifying cats who are eligible to be included in a group room. Ideally, where practicable, eligibility should be limited to cats who have been spayed or neutered, fully vaccinated, dewormed, tested for FeLV/FIV, and screened for ringworm. It’s also best to group cats according to age.
Read more about healthy, compatible cohabitant guidelines. >>
- The number of cats in a room depends on floor space. Each cat needs 18 square feet of floor space, so total square footage divided by 18 specifies the number of cats who can be housed together. Keep in mind that the number of cats should not exceed 10 to 12, no matter how large the room is.
Read more about room capacity guidelines. >>
- The best case scenario is "all in, all out." If cats must be added to an existing group they should be introduced gradually; scent exchanges are often helpful.
Read more about all in, all out guidelines. >>
- Establish and follow regular schedules and, where possible, assign regular caretakers to individual groups – cats prefer familiarity and consistency.
Read more about schedules and caretaking. >>
- Daily monitoring by individuals knowledgeable about signs of stress and illness is necessary.
Read more about monitoring guidelines and get downloadable poster. >>
- Group rooms should be spot-cleaned, with deep cleaning/disinfecting occurring between groups, in the event of an illness and on a regularly scheduled basis.
Read more about room cleaning and disinfecting guidelines and get downloadable posters. >>
Equipping Your Cat Room
- All equipment and other furnishings must be disinfectable and nonconforming items should be discarded whenever the room undergoes a deep cleaning/disinfecting.
- There should be at least one food/water station for every two cats (one for each cat is ideal) and they should be spread throughout the room to assure that each cat has unguarded access.
- There should be at least one litter box for every two cats (again, one for each cat is best) and they should also be spread throughout the room. At least some should be placed to allow a sense of privacy and all should offer an escape route. Litter boxes should also be separated from feeding stations by a physical barrier or a space of three feet.
- The room should be equipped to provide cats with the freedom to engage in natural feline behaviors. Having options gives cats a sense of control over their environment and plays an important role in minimizing stress.
- Ample scratching opportunities, both vertical and horizontal, should be available. Vertical scratching surfaces should be placed so as to allow a cat to stretch out fully while using them. Natural sisal provides the best surface, as it promotes shedding of the outer sheaf of a cat's claws.
- Soft, washable bedding should be provided for each cat. An extra bed is desirable as it will assure each cat has a choice.
- Numerous hiding places should be available, since hiding is a critical means of avoiding or coping with stress. Each cat should have a place (preferably places) to feel secure.
- There should be more perching and resting places (some with hiding opportunities) than there are cats in the room. Most cats prefer to perch and rest above the floor, so the more elevated, the better.