Are You Prepared for More Than One Cat?
There’s something so soothing about cats. I don’t know if it’s the purr or the fur, but I just love being around them. I know lots of my clients feel that way, too. And if one cat is good, two — or more — must be even better. Right?
Well, your cat has his own opinion on that matter, and it might not be what you think it is. Way before iconic film star Greta Garbo made the phrase famous, cats were expressing her signature sentiment: “I want to be alone.”
We are social animals, so it just seems natural to us that our cats would enjoy having companions, too. With few exceptions, though, wild and domestic cats lead mostly solitary lives. They can get along in groups, but given their druthers, they don’t seek out buddies. Before you decide to add a second cat to your family, ask yourself if your cat really needs a friend — and if you are prepared to meet the needs of a multicat household.
Making the Decision
There are two important things to consider before adding a second cat to your family: your current cat's age and his personality. People often ask me if they should get a kitten to help liven up their older cat. That’s probably a senior cat’s worst nightmare: his peaceful existence shattered by the antics of a wee ball of energy.
A young or middle-aged cat may be more receptive than an elderly cat to the presence of a kitten or even another adult cat — but it’s important to consider your original cat’s purr-sonality when choosing a new cat of any age. A shy cat could be overwhelmed by a bossy cat, while a bossy cat may be likely to bully a shy cat. If you do add to your feline family, choose a cat who seems outgoing but not over the top.
Sometimes people who have a shy cat — the kind who hides under the bed when people come over or runs at the sound of the doorbell — assume that he just needs a friend to bring out his inner party animal. I’m here to tell you: That’s the last thing he wants. In fact, it's entirely likely that the new cat will take over and make himself at home in your lap while your original cat spends more time than ever under the bed.
Now, none of those facts mean you can’t ever have more than one cat. In fact, sometimes adding a cat to the family is inevitable. If you’re getting married, for example, and you and your spouse-to-be both have cats, a merger is a must. But if you’re just getting started in the business of adoring cats and you think you’d like a pair, the best thing you can do is to acquire two kittens from the same litter or adopt an already bonded pair.
What Else Should You Consider?
Cats don’t learn to share in kitty-garden, so double the cats means double — or, in the case of litterboxes, triple — the cat stuff. If you plan on adding another cat, you’ll need additional toys, additional food and water bowls, and two additional litterboxes. The rule of paw is a litterbox for each cat, plus one extra, preferably in different areas, to ensure that they don’t fight over this valuable piece of property. A tall cat tree with multiple perches is also a good idea.
Conflict between cats can erupt over who gets to sleep on the bed, who gets which toys, access to litterboxes and attention from owners. Resolving territorial disputes or spats over resources starts with figuring out what’s causing the problem. Solving it may be as simple as adding more “resources” — food bowls, toys or beds, for instance — in different places or making sure that each cat gets ample lap time. Intercat conflicts may call for training, behavioral modification or separation. You may need an arbitrator in the form of a veterinary behaviorist or certified applied animal behaviorist.
Making Introductions: 6 Steps to Success
If you’re ready to add a second cat, the tips below will help you make a gradual introduction and reduce the potential for fussing and fighting.
- Isolate a new cat for at least three days and up to a week in a room with a litterbox, bed, food and water.
- Swap scents. Rub each cat with a hand towel, especially on the cheeks and at the base (top) of the tail, where cats have scent glands that they use for identification. Let each cat sniff the other’s towel, then rub him with it, so the cats learn each other’s scent. If one of the cats hisses or swats at the other’s hand towel, allow a little extra time before you bring them together.
- After the isolation period, allow the cats to see each other for three to seven days, but separate them with a screened or glass door or two pet gates stacked so the cats can’t climb them.
- With another person helping, offer meals and treats to each cat while they are separated but can see each other. This builds the impression that the presence of the other cat is a good thing.
- After this first week or two of preparation, bring the cats together on leashes, so you can separate them if they hiss instead of kiss. Hand out plenty of treats. Supervise until you’re sure they’re getting along.
- Be patient. It can take several months for cats to firm up a friendship.
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