I've written many times about the importance of vertical territory for your indoor cat. For the most part, cats feel more secure if they have options to go to an elevated location. In multicat households though, it's not just about being up high - some cats find security in mid-level territory and also ground-level. With just a little tweaking, you can create opportunities for more exploration, stimulation, security and peace within your multiple cat home through multi-level territory. Let's break it down:
For the timid cat, the ability to be on an elevated area such as a cat tree, provides added security. The cat has a greater visual warning time to see anyone (feline, canine or human) entering the room and also has the comfort of knowing no one can sneak up behind him.
For the more assertive, take-charge cat, being up high lets the other cats know who really is in charge. This can actually help reduce any multicat friction because a higher-ranking cat may choose to show his status by going to an elevated location instead of engaging in a physical confrontation.
Upper level territory also creates more options for play and exercise through climbing and jumping.
Elevated territory can come in many forms. A cat tree is the most popular but you can also create upper levels by installing cat shelves, cat walkways or even just placing some beds on bookshelves or top of tall furniture (you must create easy access for the cat).
Some cats who don't feel comfortable being up high will prefer mid level territory. It might be a cat who isn't confident enough to take the top tier spot from a companion cat or it might be an older cat who prefers the comfort of snuggling into a soft upholstered chair.
For the most part, your furniture counts as mid-level territory but you if you don't allow your cat on the furniture then he doesn't have access to mid levels unless you create some cat-friendly options. Here are some ideas for mid level territory:
Ground level for a cat who is walking, running or playing, is fine, but if kitty wants to take a nap, it can be the most vulnerable area. It can also be intimidating if a timid cat has to walk through a room and pass a more assertive cat. The timid cat may prefer to walk around the perimeter of the room. You can make the ground level territory more inviting by placing some cat tunnels (purchased or homemade) on the floor. Slide the sofa out a few inches so it's not up against the wall and that will enable a cat to walk back there and remain relatively invisible.
If you've adopted a new cat and he's unsure about the environment yet, the use of ground level tunnels that lead from his hiding place to resources (such as his food bowl or the litter box) can encourage him to venture out. When a new cat is still in his sanctuary room (safe room), I often place a few tunnels around so he'll be more comfortable about coming out from under the bed or out of the closet.
Cats live in a vertical world and we live in a horizontal world. The more you increase the levels for your cat, the more you can actually increase territory without having to break down a wall or add a room onto your home.