Communal Housing for Cats

The purpose of group housing in animal centres is to provide animals with healthy social contact and companionship with other animals in order to enhance their welfare. Group housing for cats refers to communal rooms, playgroups, as well as housing two or more animals in the same primary enclosure. Group housing requires appropriate facilities and careful selection and monitoring of animals by trained staff. This form of social contact is not appropriate for all individuals.

There are both risks and benefits to communal housing, however, with appropriate Individual Animal Planning, these risks can be minimized.

Benefits include:

  • Positive interaction with other animals
  • Play and exercise
  • Companionship
  • Physical connection
  • Socialization.
  • Enriched and varied environment

Risks include:

  • Infectious disease exposure
  • Injuries from fighting
  • Potential of stress, fear, and anxiety in some members of the group.
  • Makes monitoring of individual animals more difficult
  • Incidences of bullying
Facilities for communal housing:

communal cat roomEssential physical features of planned group housing include:

  • Adequate size of the primary enclosure
  • Multiple feeding stations and resting areas
  • Adequate space for urination and defecation
  • Adequate size of group housing to allow animals to maintain social distances
  • A variety of elevated resting perches and hiding places to increase the size and complexity of the living space
  • A minimum of 18 square feet per cat

Sufficient resources (e.g., food, water, bedding, litterboxes, toys) and their appropriate distribution throughout the space must be provided to prevent competition or resource guarding and ensure access by all animals. See Communal Room Set up

Find more information on primary enclosures at Canadian Standards of Care in Animal Shelters: Supporting ASV Guidelines, Group Housing chapter

Selection – Who to pair with whom?

Communal housing and playgroups both require careful selection and monitoring of animals. Staff or volunteers must be trained to recognize subtle signs of stress and prevent negative interactions, such as:

  • Guarding food and other resources
  • Excessive hiding
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Bullying
  • Fighting
  • Feigning sleep

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