The second pillar in the series on the environmental needs of cats is to ‘provide multiple and separated key environmental resources’. AAFP and ISFM describe these resources as including: feeding, drinking, toileting, claw scratching, play, and resting/sleeping areas. It is preferable to have each of these areas completely separate from each other in order to provide multiple access points in a multi-cat household. Each cat will then have ample space and opportunity to engage in each activity without competition or anxiety. In a single cat home separating these spaces for each need or giving multiple areas provides them with the choice to participate in these activities and choose their safe/preferential environment in each category.
The guidelines suggest giving the choice of two spaces for each key resource and this includes separating the food and water areas. The main reason for distributing these food and water locations is to give each cat the privacy and security needed in multi-cat households to greatly reduce stress and competition. Each animal needs their own feeding station without fear of another animal hovering or having resource guarding conflicts. This is to ensure they are able to eat a proper amount to meet their nutritional requirements with a safe surrounding to eat as much as they need peacefully.
All litter boxes should be located in quiet and private locations and not near noisy machines or high traffic locations in the house. Food and toilet areas should also not be located right near each other because they will deter one from the other. Scratching posts should be located in multiple locations and with different materials to increase likelihood of use and give the cat multiple options to choose its preference in both texture and location. As noted in the previous pillar article, resting and sleeping areas should be in “safe spaces” and in high areas for good visibility. It is possible for social groups within a household to share multiple resources successfully with little to no stress or anxiety but most cats are solitary survivors and prefer their own resources.
Summary: Environmental needs of cats
The key message is that cats need to have full access to each variable without being threatened or challenged by other cats or in fear of a potential threat (such as low visibility/ loud or strange noises near it). By giving each cat multiple choices for each resource they can choose their preference based on their comfort level and they have a minimal risk for stress-related diseases. Another plus associated with increased access points is giving your pet more places to explore around your home and increasing their environmental enrichment.