Cats are independent animals. But it’s a mistake to assume that our feline friends are antisocial. Of course they need their alone time here and there (who doesn’t?), but cats are inherently social animals, even if they might not express it in the same way dogs do.
If left alone too long, and too often, cats can develop some unwanted behaviors—or even get depressed and anxious.
Should you get your solo cat a companion? Is it actually better to have two cats instead of just one? If you’re adopting kittens, is a pair always better than a single cat? Let’s get right into it.
Adopting a kitten
Adopting a kitten? Congrats, you’re in for a treat! Or rather, two treats, since it’s a good idea to adopt a pair of young ones together.
While pros may disagree on many things, there’s a general consensus that kittens that grow up on their own may face difficulties later in life.
It is definitely easier to adopt two kittens at once (especially if they’re from the same litter), rather than introducing a kitten or older cat to a cat that is used to being the only feline in the house, Dr. Liff explains.
According to the IAABC, adopting one kitten can even lead to “Tarzan Syndrome” (sometimes referred to as “Single Cat Syndrome”).
“In order to become well-socialized cats, kittens need to learn appropriate behavior from one another,” according to MEOW Cat Rescue. “A human is not a substitute for a feline companion. You can provide attention and love, but there is simply no way you can replicate the play behavior of the species.”
“Adopting a solo adult cat is fine,” says foster superstar Heidi Systo. “Every cat has its own personality, and it’s a case-by-case basis. Solo kittens though: a huge no-no for many reasons. And honestly if you have adopted or bought a single kitten that is now an adult cat with behavioral issues… there’s not much that you can do. It’s about learning proper social interactions skills while their brains are still developing, and that window closes around 6 months of age.”
In order to avoid these difficulties, many shelters don’t even allow prospective pet parents to adopt a single kitten who would be the household’s only feline.
The pros of having two cats
Having two (or more) cats comes with a plethora of benefits for not only your cats, but all family members! Here are some of the biggest advantages of being a multi-cat household.
How do you know if your cat is bored? Well, they might start overgrooming, overeating, meowing a lot, sleeping excessively, or scratching or biting stuff around the house they weren’t interested in before. Maybe you’ve bought new, interactive cat toys, bought a new cat tree, or installed a window seat so your pet can watch the birds outside at the feeder—but they still seem dissatisfied. If so, it might be time to adopt another kitty.
A feline friend will keep your cat company when you’re not home (which will likely be the case more often, as we move out of the pandemic). They can groom each other, play, and take naps together.
Even if your cats don’t actively cuddle or wrestle, they will still keep each other company in other ways. Cats are very curious animals and always want to know what is happening around them. Having a companion to observe all day is its own kind of entertainment.
Mental and physical health benefits
Are there health benefits to having two cats? Absolutely!
Finding ways to keep your cat interested and engaged with their toys can be difficult. We wouldn’t want to watch the same movie over and over again either. Having a feline friend can keep your cat’s mental health in good shape because it keeps them active and alert and can decrease the chance of them being bored.
Dr. Liff, Lemonade’s favorite vet, does note that it’s important to keep in mind that every cat is different. A new cat can help boost your cat’s mood… but some cats might even fall into a depression because they don’t appreciate their new partner in crime. As with many things in life, it’s impossible to predict with certainty.
Your cat’s physical health will generally improve when they have a buddy, though. Cats—especially indoor ones—need to get rid of their built-up energy, otherwise they’ll be at risk for weight gain. A pair of cats will have plenty of opportunities for exercise as they chase each other around the house.
Do two cats mean twice the work?
Yes, you will scoop more litter boxes and will have to buy double the amount of food if you have a pair of cats. But that’s offset by other aspects of having more than one cat.
For instance, you’ll feel less obligated to serve as your solo cat’s sole companion for play. And when you’re away at the office for the delay, you’re less likely to feel that you’re abandoning your pet to the loneliness of your apartment.
You also don’t need to groom your cats as much because they will help groom each other (a.k.a allogrooming). Cats will help their feline friends clean areas that are hard to reach themselves like the ears and on top of their heads. It’s both helpful and completely adorable.
If you’re the proud owner of a single cat, you probably know how tough it is to train them out of waking you up at 3AM. Thankfully, adding another cat to your household doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll now have two little rascals jumping around your bed in the early morning. Instead, they can keep each other company—especially when their nocturnal instincts kick in and they’re in the mood to ‘hunt,’ according to the Spruce Pets.
Having more than one cat means that they can teach each other good behaviors. If one
cat uses the scratching post for example, the other is likely to use it as well (instead of your couch). Or if one cat is a picky eater but sees the other modeling good eating habits, that might have a positive influence.
Cats also learn boundaries from each other. If a play session gets a bit rough, cats will correct their companion with a little tap on the head—a gentle reminder that things went too far, and a way that cats can learn not to bite and scratch too much.
A lonely cat will find their own ways to stimulate themselves by developing destructive behavior (like climbing the curtains or eating your favorite houseplant). Having a feline companion doesn’t mean double the trouble, but rather double the naps, since they’ll be tired out from socializing and exercising.
According to ASPCA around 860,000 cats are euthanized every year. This is caused mainly because shelters are overcrowded and don’t have enough resources to take care of them all. This statistic is heartbreaking, but fortunately you can help reduce this number by adopting.
When you adopt and become a pet parent, you will make a huge difference in the well-being of your cat’s life (and your own!). And if you adopt a pair of cats? That’s twice as much good karma, and one less kitty destined to be put down.
Some disadvantages of having two cats
We’re not going to lie—having more than one cat isn’t all fun and games. You’ll want to consider some obvious things, like increased costs, possible personality conflicts, and more. Let’s discuss some of the possible obstacles.
Cats can share a lot of their stuff like toys and beds. Some are even fine sharing a litter box, although the official recommendation is to have one box per cat.
But you do need to buy twice as much cat food and pay twice the vet bills. It’s a good idea to be aware of the extra costs since you don’t want to end up in a situation where you can’t afford to take care of your fur babies.
An easy way to save costs on visits to the vet is by taking out pet insurance. This insurance will pay up to 90% of the costs for eligible treatments, depending on which coverage you choose, which can really help in case of a serious and expensive medical issue.
Although cats are not as high maintenance as other pets might be, they still require a lot of TLC. It’s important to be mindful of your responsibilities, like cleaning the litter boxes, vacuuming the house (unless you want your apartment to be 90% fur), and training your cats to encourage proper behavior.
Important fact: Dr. Liff recommends having one litter box per cat, plus one additional box. So, for two cats you would optimally have three litter boxes. (We know, if you live in a small New York apartment, you might be shaking your head right about now…)
The reasoning behind this is that cats are territorial animals and a litter box defines their territory. Make sure to put the boxes in different areas of the house instead of having a ‘litter station.’ Sharing a bathroom can create drama, a.k.a. peeing on the carpet instead of in the litter box…yeah, no thanks.
Trouble getting along
Adopting a second cat means introducing two cats who don’t know each other, which can be tricky. It’ll take some work and patience, but most of the time, both cats adapt and become friends (or at least learn to tolerate each other).
But there are cases where the cats don’t learn to get along. This happens mostly when introducing a cat that is very different in age and energy level. Adult cats might not appreciate a kitten who wants to play 24/7. Make sure to adopt a cat of similar age to increase the chances of them getting along.
So.. Are cats better in pairs?
All in all it’s safe to say that double the cats means double the fun. You have to be mindful of the extra costs and extra responsibilities, but if you are up for it you should definitely consider two, or more. (The controversial question of “How many cats is too many cats?” deserves its own blog post, of course.)
When your cat has a furry companion, they’ll always be entertained, even if you’re not there with ‘nip and a laser toy. Their physical and mental health will improve, and they’ll have company when you’re off at the office. They’ll also be less likely to attack your furniture. And you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve provided a forever home to more than one cat, cutting down on the shocking number of felines who aren’t so lucky.