Are two cats better than one?

cats looking out the window

Until Buckley came into my life in 2006, I’d been an “only cat” person.

I didn’t get my first cat until I was in my twenties. Feebee was a grey tabby cat who was born in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to a cat named Blue, who belonged to a childhood friend of my former husband. We were living in Germany at the time, but knew we would be moving back to the Washington, DC area shortly, so Walt’s friend saved one of the kittens in Blue’s litter for us. Meeting Feebee was love at first sight for me. We took him home as soon as we had moved into our new house in Northern Virginia, and for the next fifteen and a half years, Feebee was the one and only feline love of my life.

After Feebee passed away following a lengthy battle with lymphoma, Amber came into my life. She was a stray who was brought to the animal hospital I worked at with her five kittens. I did not think I was ready for another cat yet. The wound from Feebee’s passing was still very fresh and raw, but coming home to an empty house was becoming increasingly difficult, so I took Amber home, “just for the weekend.” I really liked having her quiet, gentle energy around, and decided I was going to foster her. She became the classic “failed foster,” and for almost ten years, her gentle, loving, wise presence, not to mention her almost constant purr, brought love and affection into my life until she passed away after a sudden illness last May.

With both Feebee and Amber, I had occasionally thought about bringing another cat home with me. I worked at various animal hospitals, so there were always a cats that needed homes, and some touched my heart more than others. But I held off. I intuitively knew Feebee was the classic “only cat.”

And then Buckley came into my life in the spring of 2005. Those of you who’ve read Buckley’s Story already know this story, but for those of you who haven’t, here’s the abbreviated version. She was brought to the animal hospital I managed after being rescued from a farm in Southwestern Virginia. I took one look at her and fell in love. Hard. And fast. She became my office cat at the animal hospital. In 2006, I left the animal hospital to start my own business, and the thought of leaving Buckley behind was more than I could bear.

Everybody said I was crazy to try to introduce two adult tortoiseshell cats to each other. If you know anything about torties, you know about “tortitude.” They’re known to have some pretty distinct personality traits, and they’re not always known for getting along with other cats. I won’t go into the details of what I went through to introduce Buckley to Amber, but I also won’t spoil the book for you if you haven’t read it yet, because it’s no secret that they ended up getting along beautifully.

For the first time in my life, I had more than one cat – and I really loved it. A year and a half after Buckley died in November of 2008, I adopted Allegra to join Amber and me. Sadly, Amber passed away suddenly only five short weeks after Allegra joined our family, and it took another year before I had worked through my grief and was ready to add another cat to our family. Ruby joined us in April of this year.

I’ve been lucky. Amber and Buckley got along very quickly. Amber initially wasn’t too thrilled when Allegra joined us. She was twelve years old at the time, Allegra was seven months old. On paper, that’s not a great match. It’s usually better to match up cats who are close in age and temperament. Amber and Allegra were neither. But Amber was laid back and mellow enough to accept the rambunctious newcomer after just a few days.

Allegra and Ruby were a perfect match. They were well matched on paper, they’re about a year apart in age and have similar temperaments. I knew all along that Allegra needed a companion – she came to me with some behavior issues, and even though I worked with her successfully on my own, we would probably have made faster progress if I had added another kitten to our family sooner.

Even when the match sounds good in theory, you still never know until you get the two cats together whether things will work out. With Allegra and Ruby, it was magic. I went on gut instinct and against all the traditional recommendations of how to introduce two cats to each other, and within a few hours, the two of them were comfortably hanging out in the living room together. They bonded incredibly fast. They love to play with each other, chase each other around the house, and they both sleep with me at night.

The biggest benefit of having two cats, in the case of Allegra and Ruby, has been for Allegra. She has blossomed since Ruby’s arrival. She’s become more confident, her behavioral problems have all but disappeared, and while she certainly wasn’t an unhappy cat before, now she’s far more relaxed and content.

As for me, I can no longer imagine not having two cats. It’s been such a joy to watch Allegra come into her own, and to watch Ruby and Allegra together. Do I regret not getting another cat sooner? Sometimes I do. But if I hadn’t waited, I wouldn’t have Ruby, and if the past two months are any indication, Allegra and Ruby are truly a match made in heaven.

So are two cats better than one? When they get along, absolutely. But like so many things with cats, it’s an individual decision. What may be right for one cat or one person may not be right for the next one. By doing your homework, knowing your existing cat, and learning as much as you can about the cat you’re thinking about adding to your family, you’ll make sure that you get the best possible match. And if that’s the case, then two cats are, indeed, better than one.

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22 Comments on Are two cats better than one?

  1. Eliz
    September 25, 2014 at 10:10 am (5 years ago)

    My 19 year old curmudgeon died a month ago and within a couple of weeks, I went out and got a fostered 6-8 month old male, Jupiter. Shortly thereafter, I found Ursula, a 2+ year old female, at an SPCA shelter. She was hissing and spitting and whacking Jupiter. I did the wrong thing by allowing Ursula the run of the house. After 3 days, I returned Ursula to the shelter because Jupiter was getting very skittish and nervous. When I returned Ursula, I got Zip from the same shelter. Zip is a 3-month-old male and within minutes, he and Jupiter fell in love. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I had shafted Ursula, so after a week, I went back and re-adopted her. I am now following all the rules about introductions. Originally, Ursula and Jupiter were fine using the same litter and eating even out of the same bowl when it contained something awesome like chicken. She growled and hissed a lot though. Now I feel heartened a little bit. Ursula is in her safe room (she came home with me again last night), and they are eating on either sides of the door and I got them to all play with the same feather toy under the door. There was no growling. I am able to close off one half of my house from the other half, so Ursula is in one part and Jupe and Zip in the other part. They definitely hear each other, though. Today, I plan to swap them into each other’s spaces without their making visual contact. I’m anxious, because Zip is so little still and Jupiter is so sweet and pretty docile. I will never return Ursula to the SPCA now. I feel lucky I got her back. She could have been euthanized after I brought her back the first time, I know. I brought her back because the hissing the growling from her was getting worse after 3 days, not better. But now I found the introduction protocol here and I am hopeful…

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      September 25, 2014 at 10:14 am (5 years ago)

      It sounds like things are going well the second time around, Eliz. Ursula is a lucky girl that you gave her a second chance. Keep us posted on how the introductions are going!

      Reply
  2. Mary Kay
    September 17, 2014 at 3:24 pm (5 years ago)

    Help! I am very confused about adding a companion for me and my 13 yr old male cat, Patches. I am retired and would like to get another cat or dog for a companion. I am leaning very much towards a very small dog, as I could not have one working long hours. Patches is a Norwegian Forest cat, very laid back, and sleeps a LOT! He doesn’t really play with toys either. I am thinking he is bored, but he has been alone with me for 13 years.

    Would an older dog be a good companion or should I get another cat about his age? And would he be better with a male or female dog or male or female cat? My cat has NEVER sprayed and I am afraid of that behavior.

    Thanks so much.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      September 17, 2014 at 3:56 pm (5 years ago)

      There is never a guarantee as to whether two cats or a cat and a dog will get along, Mary Kay. It can be even more challenging when the cat is a senior who’s been used to being the only cat for a long time. If you want to move forward with this, your best bet is to find a cat who is a close match in temperament. I would go with a mature adult cat rather than a kitten or young adult. It is critical that you do very slow and gradual introductions if you get another cat, here’s how: http://consciouscat.net/2011/08/15/cat-to-cat-introductions/

      Reply
  3. Anne
    December 27, 2013 at 4:27 pm (5 years ago)

    In 1998 (three days after my childhood cat Topsy died) I went out and got two sister kittens. They were only 6 weeks old! Two and a half years ago Freda died and I worried about her sister Tara. She was grieving and it made me so sad. Three months after Freda’s death, I brought home Poppy (an 8 week old kitten). I wasn’t sure if an 8 week old kitten and a 13 year old cat would bond, but they did, and Tara found a new lease of life. Now I am faced with cat grief again and really don’t know what to do. Tara died on Xmas day and Poppy (now 2 years old) is beginning to pine for her already. How long should I wait to bring home a new companion for Poppy? Should I bring home a kitten? A cat of a similar age? Or an older cat? Tara was like a maternal type figure to Poppy and Poppy copied a lot of Tara’s behavior. I work long hours and Poppy seems to sleep a lot – I’m worried she’s depressed. She was only with Tara for 2 years, but I think she adored her. It’s very sad to see the cat left behind look so lost:(

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 27, 2013 at 4:34 pm (5 years ago)

      There’s nothing sadder than a cat grieving for a companion, especially as you’re still in the throes of your own grief. My heart goes out to you, Anne. It sounds like Poppy would probably do better with a companion. I would look for a cat similar in age and temperament to Poppy, maybe slightly younger. As far as the timing, I think the most important question at this stage is whether you’re ready to bring another cat into your heart and home. It’s awfully soon after losing Tara, and you may want to give yourself a little bit of space and time to grieve. However, if you feel ready, and if you feel that a new family member might help heal your heart, then give it a try.

      Reply
      • Anne
        December 28, 2013 at 10:50 am (5 years ago)

        Thank you, Ingrid. I am so glad I found your blog; I am reading everything on it and it’s helping me a great deal.

        Reply
    • JOANN MILLER
      March 13, 2015 at 2:18 pm (4 years ago)

      I DO KNOW IF YOU HAVE TWO OLDER CATS ,A ONE PASSES, THE OTHER ONE, WILL SOON PASS TOO. IT’S DEPRESSION. I HAD TWO 12 YEAR OLD SIAMESE BROTHERS, AND GOT CALL TO RESCUE A KITTEN. WELL I TOOK TWO KITTENS, SOTHEY WOULD HAVE SOMEONT TOPLAY WITH. THAT NIGHT AFTER KITTENS WARN OUT, I FOUND THEM ALL ON MY BED ASLEEP ON MY BED, IN A BIG PILE. HAHA

      Reply
      • JOANN MILLER
        March 13, 2015 at 2:20 pm (4 years ago)

        FORGOT TO ADD I JUST ADDED A 2 YEAR OLD DOBERMAN, AND THEY ALL GET ALONG GREAT

        Reply
  4. Julia Williams
    July 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm (8 years ago)

    For most of my Cat Lady days, I have had more than one, and they have gotten along pretty well. Your advice is good. I cat-sit my friend’s “only kitty” when she is away, and I know the cat would be a lot less lonely if she had a playmate.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 9, 2011 at 8:29 pm (8 years ago)

      Julia, that’s one of the things I always worried about when I had only one cat at a time. I don’t travel often, but the few days I did go out of town, I always felt bad for Feebee or Amber, even though my pet sitter would come twice a day and spend almost an hour with them each time.

      Reply
  5. Katnip Lounge
    July 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm (8 years ago)

    As a crazy cat Mommy of thirteen kitties, I can say that my Horde never lacks for playmates or a cuddle partner!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm (8 years ago)

      I think you might be holding the record here, Katnip Lounge!

      Reply
    • JOANN MILLER
      March 13, 2015 at 2:23 pm (4 years ago)

      HAVE YOU NEVER HEARD THE ONE, ” CATS ARE LIKE POTATOE CHIPS, ONE IS NEVER ENOUGH”

      Reply
  6. Zee and Zoey
    July 9, 2011 at 10:25 am (8 years ago)

    I have had so many cats in my life, that I honestly cannot tell you how many. But, one thing is certain – I have always had more than one at a time. Sure, sometimes introducing new cats to one another can be like mixing oil and water, but, with a lot of love and patience, it is usually worth the effort. As you said with Allegra, sometimes it is a behavioral issue. I know that my Maine Coon Zee had a serious problem – he was becoming excessively naughty and aggressive with my other residing cats. Turns out they were too old to meet his high demands for playtime and socialization and so we decided to get Zoey, our female Bengal, as a playmate for him when she was a kitten. The results were nothing less than profound. Zee fell head over heels in love with her and she was the perfect companion for him to unleash his strong personality and need for play and attention.

    We have seven cats in our household and I realize that is probably a bit much for most people. But, the social dynamic of these cats is amazing. They are friends and they do seek one another out for love, cuddling, companionship, and yes, even the occasion hissy fit (even though it gets loud, I think deep down the cats even enjoy the occasional fight, as it gives them something to do). I think in the long run, it is healthier for a cat to have at least one companion. While we as humans can enjoy our solitary moments, I still think we would be very lonely if we did not have other people in our lives to connect, bond, and communicate with.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 9, 2011 at 12:18 pm (8 years ago)

      Another vote for seven!

      Reply
  7. Amy
    July 9, 2011 at 10:14 am (8 years ago)

    I was a single cat owner up until 2008 when I moved in with my partner and instantly became a multiple cat owner 🙂 My cat is older and a bit cranky around others. I was worried she wouldn’t take to the other animals since she had gone 8 years of her life being the only animal in the house. She has adapted quite well and pretty much has the attitude of if you give me my space I will give you yours. I have always enjoyed my one on one time with my Siamese and I am sure she still misses being the only cat so to make up for what she lost I lock her in my office with me and she thinks that is the greatest thing in the world to hang out in there with just me!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm (8 years ago)

      Amy, that’s a wondeful solution to make your Siamese still feel like she’s your one and only from time to time!

      Reply
  8. Bernadette
    July 9, 2011 at 10:03 am (8 years ago)

    I remember an animal behavior specialist saying somewhere in my past that all species need the company of their own. Imagine if you lived wth a herd of elephants and they adored you, took loving care of all your needs and treated you like one of their own. Would you feel fulfilled, or would you still feel you needed the company of at least one other human?

    That said, I haven’t lived with one cat since that one cat went outdoors and found a vibrant social life outside her life with my family. I am apparently a seven-cat home since that number always seems to work the best, not too many for me to care for and everyone has a variety of social interactions, including me. Watching my Big Four, who have never been apart, and how close they are, and even the close bonds of other unrelated cats in my household, I just couldn’t imagine just one cat.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm (8 years ago)

      Seven seems to be a magic number for quite a few of our readers here!

      Reply
  9. Dawn
    July 9, 2011 at 8:58 am (8 years ago)

    From the time I was 14 and into my 30’s, we always had at least two cats. And introducing the newest addition was always and easy task. The “old” cat would sniff the new one and then is were as if they said “welcome to the madness. Let me show you where the litter box is and that was that”. When I adopted Lexy I always knew I wanted another cat, and Lola came around 9 months later. That introduction didn’t go so easy, and it took almost two months before I was absolutley comfortable leaving them alone for long periods of time. I knew it would eventually work out and it did. I love having two cats! I know Lexy appreciates the company when I work long days, and their two distinct personalities are a joy to live with. Two cats are definitely better than one.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 9, 2011 at 12:16 pm (8 years ago)

      I’m so glad things worked out for you, Lexy and Lola. Lola is special, that’s for sure. (And so is Lexy, of course!)

      Reply

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