Two’s Company — Sometimes

Should you adopt a second cat? You should consider the difference in age and mix of personalities first.

Cats are naturally solitary creatures; in addition, they are also naturally independent and self-sufficient – traits that we alter and/or suppress when we domesticate them. The idea of a second cat can be very alluring: “One cat is so entertaining and such a wonderful companion … two would be twice the fun!” Or, “I want to do my part to ease the burden on my local shelter and give one more cat a good home.” These are common thoughts for cat owners and may, in fact, be true; however, the decision to add a second feline family member should not be taken lightly. A second cat can either add joy and companionship, or it can add strife and mayhem.

Dr. Julia Albright, a clinician in the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell Universitys College of Veterinary Medicine, states, “Cats may tolerate – but rarely truly enjoy – the company of another cat. I see so many problems from people having too many cats, but shelters are so overcrowded with cats that I hate to deter people from providing good homes.”

The age and temperament of your current cat may play an important role in his ability to accept (and embrace) a new housemate. For instance, Dr. Albright explains, “Certainly, if your cat is urine spraying or showing aggression, another cat is just going to make things worse. Similarly, if you have a shy cat, a bold, playful cat or kitten may make life miserable for her.”

Consider Two Kittens. Adopting kittens simultaneously may be advantageous, according to Dr. Albright. “In general, kittens are going to be more playful and energetic (whether you and your cat want to play or not).” Two kittens can be playmates and help each other expend that boundless energy that kittens are known for. Dr. Albright warns that it may be difficult to determine how a cat will behave once it gets to your home: “A shy cat may come out of its shell, whereas a bold cat is probably going to be assertive and confident at home, as well.

But most shelters do not do temperament tests on cats (although most will not allow aggressive cats to be adopted).” She adds that if you are buying from a breeder, it is very important to meet the parents: “A nice experiment was conducted in which cats were broken up into four groups: kittens from aggressive or non-aggressive toms and handled or not handled by humans every day. The cats that were handled and sired by friendly toms were the friendliest to humans whereas the unhandled kittens from aggressive toms were the least friendly to humans. So bottom line: Paternal temperament plays a role in kitten behavior.”

There is also the additional cost to be considered when bringing home a second cat. Dr. Albright explains, “There should be a litter box for each cat, plus one. Litter should be scooped at least once a day and changed completely at least every two weeks. That cost can add up. Food shouldnt cost too much for another cat. However, regular veterinary visits are well worth the costs because preventative medicine is cheaper than treating a major illness.”

Get a Health Check. Lastly, be sure to protect your current cat from the possible transmission of parasites, upper respiratory diseases, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and feline leukemia. Dr. Albright suggests you make a veterinary visit before you bring the new cat home.

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to ensure that your cat will react favorably to a newcomer. One person may take every precaution and weigh each issue laboriously – only to find the current cat indifferent to the mere mention of another kitty. And another may find a kitten on the doorstep in the morning, right before leaving for work, and decide to introduce it to the family with fantastic results. But I guess thats what makes us love our kitties so much – although we feed and care for them, they always retain their independent spirit.