Is your only cat lonely?

Buckley's Story Chapter Seven - Amber and Buckley

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.

This post is sponsored by the Pets Add Life campaign and the American Pet Products Association. Visit PAL’s Facebook Page, post pictures of your pets, and join the conversation.

Photo of Buckley and Amber ©Ingrid King.

17 Comments on Is your only cat lonely?

  1. Heather wood
    August 31, 2016 at 8:46 am (3 years ago)

    As a student who travels a lot I think the best solution is a pet cam. I found a great one with a feeder and a rod game I can control from my phone and it’s a great way to get a grip on my cat while I’m not around. It’s called Cat2see and I highly recommend it! http://www.cat2see.com

    Reply
  2. Amy
    November 29, 2014 at 7:14 pm (5 years ago)

    I know this was published several years ago, but I was looking for some advice today and came across this post. I have a 16-year old cat, Bernie, who is the “last man standing,” so to speak, from a house that once had a dog (his big brother and hero) and 6 other cats. I have lost them all but Bernie to different illnesses and issues in the past 3 1/2 years. Bernie is a very social cat, friendly and confident, and I’ve been concerned for a while now about him being lonely as he’s lost his buddies. With the recent loss of the only other cat in the house, who Bernie really didn’t care for much, I am very concerned about his loneliness. He has always been quite vocal but it has become excessive. Plus, being older and less active, I think he needs more stimulation in the house – not so much active play for him but mere entertainment to watch. I have been considering getting 2 kittens or young teens, 2 so they can play with each other and not over irritate Bernie; however, I have had pee problems in the house in the past and am super worried about that happening again. Also, I’ve just wanted to observe Bernie and make sure that I’m getting company for HIS benefit and not mine.
    I’m rambling and apologize – the gist of my story is that I have been seeking some input from friends and even a vet therapist friend about getting company for my Bernie but keep being told to give it more time, that since Bernie is elderly he probably won’t like young cats in the house, etc. But I can’t shake the feeling that he needs company and, as another poster and Ingrid both indicated, I’ve always had a pretty strong and reliable “gut” and my gut keeps telling me that Bernie is lonely. There is no fool-proof guarantee that pee issues won’t happen, but we can’t live our lives worried about what “might” happen. After reading Ingrid and other’s stories, I feel fellow cat spirits telling me to trust my instincts in knowing my cat better than others.
    So, THANK YOU all for these encouraging stories – I really needed it!!!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 30, 2014 at 6:57 am (5 years ago)

      Unfortunately, as you already know, there is no way to predict whether two cats will get along, and whether or not you will have marking issues if you bring another cat into your home. You mentioned that Bernie is dealing with multiple illnesses – I’m concerned that his excessive vocalizing might be due to a health issue? I wish I had an answer for you, but you really won’t know until you try introducing a new cat. Generally speaking, an older, mellow cat sounds like a better match for a senior cat, but if you do lean towards getting a kitten, I would most definitely get two so they can play with each other and not bug Bernie too much.

      Reply
  3. Julia Williams
    November 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm (8 years ago)

    It’s been a long, long time since I was an “only cat” household! My cats don’t always act like the best of friends (mostly just play sparring, MOL) but I do think they want companionship just like we all do, esp. if they are in a home where the hoomins are gone a lot. I pet-sit a friend’s cat when she goes on vacation twice a year, and her cat gets so lonely in the house all by herself.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 11, 2011 at 8:53 pm (8 years ago)

      When I was an only cat mom I hated to go away even more than I do now. Even though my pet sitter comes twice a day, that was still an awful lot of time for a cat to be alone. At least now, Allegra and Ruby have each other.

      Reply
  4. Barbara Saunders
    November 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm (8 years ago)

    I adopted my cat from a vet’s office, where she’d been for several weeks after a tech rescued her from an abusive situation. She was kept in a cage in the dog area during his work hours; she played too rough with his cats to be left at home, and the dog area was his only option. Now she loves dogs and can’t stand other cats.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 11, 2011 at 8:52 pm (8 years ago)

      Another vote for dogs as companions for cats – sounds like things worked out perfectly for your cat, Barbara.

      Reply
  5. Darcy and Bingley
    November 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm (8 years ago)

    .. a most interesting and informative post and comments, thanks to all. Love Helen, Darcy and Bingley xxx

    Reply
  6. Katnip Lounge
    November 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm (8 years ago)

    I agree, kitties need company. In our case, LOTS of company.

    Reply
  7. Esme
    November 11, 2011 at 10:59 am (8 years ago)

    My first cat came to me as a stray-she was an indoor outdoor girl and seemed quite content. She liked to spend time with us and I always had play time-she loved being outdoors-which was her demise.

    We then got the twins-as they are affectionately called by their neighbor auntie. When I was looking most rescues wanted me to take two and this rescue was quite adamant about adopting Penelope with her brother-they thought she needed him. When you have one what is two-I feel bad that I did not initially really pay much attention to Magellan when I was looking-I still had lots of anger about B. being killed. They are litter mates and adore each other, they always snuggle together, and my princess goes to him for her daily spa activities, he is truly the mother cat. I cannot say they play together a lot-he is a bit rough for hair-and she prefers to watch from the sidelines, although she will go rustle him up for playtime sometimes. My point is that I could not imagine not having two together. They are great company for each other.

    Ingrid, pay a visit to this site: http://afostercatnamednorma.blogspot.com/ It chronicles a torties babies-the women is a foster mom to cats. I think you will enjoy it.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm (8 years ago)

      Your two are so sweet, Esme.

      Thanks for the link – the photos are wonderful, and Norma the tortie is gorgeous!

      Reply
  8. caren gittleman
    November 11, 2011 at 10:57 am (8 years ago)

    I completely agree with you Ingrid and Layla above.

    My Bobo was the “only” cat for 18 years and I am like you pertaining to “gut instinct” I am highly intuitive (psychics have called me psychic!) and I knew for him, getting another cat was NOT a good idea.

    Sadly in our condo we can only have two pets and we have our two, Cody and Dakota. I wouldn’t underestimate the benefits of a cat having a companion who happens to be a DOG. Cody and Dakota get along famously, are incredibly close and have no inkling that they are different species lol.

    When my husband and I go out, we leave the TV on. When we return often Cody AND Dakota are sitting in the living room TOGETHER watching TV. It is hilarious. They provide quite a bit of company/comfort to each other even with only one of them being a cat!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm (8 years ago)

      Caren, you raise a good point. Perhaps it’s just the company of another non-human companion that makes a difference. I bet there are some cats who might even prefer a canine companion to another cat.

      Reply
  9. Mariesa
    November 11, 2011 at 9:31 am (8 years ago)

    The best thing I ever did for my first cat, Coqueta is bring another cat into the household. When I first adopted my 8-week old kitten I lived alone and prior to being spayed she had no issues. After spaying and a little age my extremely active cat started peeing on my bed for attention. She actually only did this while I was home. I tried extra play time, calming herbs, and a million different cat behaviorist books, but her activity and anxiety didn’t leave. My now husband and I were planning on moving in together and we were offered to adopt a foster cat. We decided that the new companion may help my Coqueta.

    Even through weeks (maybe months) of dispute and cat fights after adopting Sanchez we saw a distinct changess in Coqueta. While she was still the most cautious, anxious cat I had ever seen she no longer sneaked off to get my attention. She would play with Sanchez, then when Sanchez was bored, with me, then when I couldn’t play, she’d play alone and start the sequence again. She seemed truly content for the first time not always being always in my line of sight. It has been a year and a half and aside some middle of the night chasing sessions between the girls Coqueta has never caused an issue.

    Because of this experience I recommend that every cat owner adopt at least 2 cats. There may be some adjustment time, but I fully believe it is worthwhile, especially if your cat(s) will be alone alot!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 11, 2011 at 12:37 pm (8 years ago)

      Mariesa, I had a similar experience with Allegra. After Amber died unexpectedly, I found myself with Allegra, a high energy young cat who needed to be entertained and challenged. I did my best to be a substitute feline buddy for almost a year, but even though I work from home and spent a lot of time with her, it wasn’t enough. When I was finally ready to bring another cat into our home and adopted Ruby, Allegra blossomed. Everything about her relaxed, and some of her residual destructive behaviors completely stopped.

      Reply
  10. Layla Morgan Wilde
    November 11, 2011 at 9:20 am (8 years ago)

    Some only cats may prefer to be alone but I’m amazed how many thrive with companionship, even at an older age. I recommend fostering as an option as a “try before you buy” for standoffish cats before a permanent adoption to be sure it’s a fit.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 11, 2011 at 12:34 pm (8 years ago)

      Fostering can be a good option. Since I already failed at it once, I doubt that I’d be good at it a second time around, either. I truly admire people who can do it.

      Reply

Leave a comment

First time visitors: please read our Comment Guidelines.