Are Multiple Cats Better Than One?
Find out why two or more cats can be optimal under certain circumstances.
By: Darcy Lockman
When Angie Dunne brought her two kittens home from the shelter last year, she already knew they got along.
“The people at the animal shelter told me they really gravitated toward each other, that they played together all the time,” Dunne says. “I’d actually planned on adopting only one cat, but I was convinced that they shouldn’t be separated. Now I couldn’t imagine one without the other.”
Adopting two cats or bringing a second kitty into a one-feline home isn’t always easy.
“Knowing how to choose a ‘pet’ for your cat will give the best odds for avoiding personality conflicts, which often show up as behaviour problems, like litter box avoidance, spraying or marking, aggression and other unwanted behaviours,” says Los Angeles-based cat behaviourist Marva Marrow.
Knowing whether you should add another kitty to your home or bring two home together can be tricky, so Marrow has a few pieces of advice on how to make a good cat match — and when not to try.
“When they’re well-matched, it’s good for cats to have companionship,” Marrow says. Two cats can play together, satisfying their need for physical and emotional interaction. According to the Humane Society, cats that live with other felines tend to be happier and less likely to get in trouble. They can also groom each other, keeping clean the places one cat can’t reach alone.
- Choose cats or kittens with physiques and body types that mirror that of the feline already sharing your home. For example, a good partner for a Siamese would be another “slinky” cat.
- Don’t adopt two female cats. If you already have one girl at home, don’t get a second.
- Make a list of your cat’s personality traits. Is your furry friend shy or social? Clingy or aloof? “Like people, cats get along better with other cats whose temperaments match their own,” Marrow says. She suggests taking your list to the shelter, and asking the employees to find the best match for your kitty.
How to Introduce a Second Cat
When cats first cohabitate, they need to be introduced gradually and under strict supervision. The cats cannot have any access to each other when you’re not home. Marrow suggests longer and longer supervised periods of exposure filled with toys and treats to keep everybody happy.
The timeline for this supervised interaction is around one month, though it may vary with different cat pairs. “You need to help them adjust slowly, so no one gets stressed,” says Marrow.
When One Is Enough
Cats need to hide when they desire alone time, so if you don’t have hiding spaces, one feline may be all you can handle. Your home should allow for the newly introduced cats to be separated — at least for the first month — when you are not home to supervise. Finally, your home should have room for a minimum of one litter box for each cat (ideally, one for each cat plus one extra).
Two final considerations are the age and health of the resident cat. The stress of bringing another pet into the home could potentially shorten the life of an elderly cat or a cat with serious health issues.
With the right pairing and introduction, two cats living together may ultimately lead more satisfying, enjoyable lives than “single” felines do. But remember, stresses Marrow, “Not all cats like all cats. You can’t just slap two together and expect them to get along.” But with the above criteria, you already have a head start.
Darcy is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Daily Cat. Her work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times and Rolling Stone.