November 19 is National Get a Pal for Your Pet Day, sponsored by Pets Add Life, a campaign designed to spread the word about the benefits and joys of pet ownership
Until Buckley came into my life in 2006, I’d been an “only cat” person.
First, there was Feebee, my first cat, who was the one and only love of my life for almost sixteen years until he passed away in April of 2000. In July of that same year, Amber came home with me as a soon to be “failed foster.” Her gentle, loving, wise presence, not to mention her almost constant purr, brought love and affection into my life for the next six years as my only child, until Buckley came along.
Those of you who read my book already know the story. She was my office cat at the animal hospital I managed until I left in 2006 to start my own business. The thought of leaving Buckley behind was more than I could bear. And so I became a two-cat mom for the first time in my life. And not only did I love it, the two cats loved it, too.
Cats are said to be solitary creatures, but most cats do well, and actually prefer, having a companion or two of their own species to share their lives with. This is especially true if cats are left alone all day while their human goes to work. Despite their reputation for being self-sufficient, eight to ten hours is a long time for a cat to be left without company, stimulation, and interaction. If they have a feline companion, they’ve got a built-in playmate or snuggle buddy.
Unfortunately, in most cases, you won’t know until you try it whether your formerly only cat really wants a companion, or whether she’d prefer remaining an only cat. When two (or more) cats get along, it is a wonderful thing. If they don’t, it can lead to misery for both the felines and the humans in the household.
Like so many things with cats, it depends on the individual cats, and the individual humans involved. 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.
There are things you can do to help ensure that everything goes smoothly. Proper introductions are key to convincing your formerly only cat to accept a new friend. On rare occasions, you can just bring the new cat into an existing situation without following a protocol of gradual introductions. With Allegra and Ruby, 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. I don’t recommend this approach. Nationally known feline behaviorist Jackson Galaxy tells you how to do it right in Cat to Cat Introductions.
You know your cat best. If you have an only cat, and you think she might benefit from a companion, do your homework. Be prepared for a period of unrest as the two cats adjust to each other. But in the long run, getting a companion for your only cat could be the best thing you ever did – for your cat, and for yourself.
Photo of Buckley and Amber ©Ingrid King.