Ah yes, there are many benefits to having two cats, but they apply only when the two cats are well matched and have enough physical space to live together comfortably. For one, two cats provide each other with exercise, social interaction, and mental stimulation. Cats housed together have more opportunity to “just be cats” by socializing and playing with each other, and this means they are less likely to be destructive or engage in other problematic behaviors. For example, some single cats annoy their owners by trying to wake them during the night for play. Two cats might still wake the owner by tearing around the home, but at least the owner isn’t getting up out of bed to entertain the cat. Another benefit of having two cats is that they are sometimes cleaner than “single” cats. Cats will groom each other’s ears and coats, often getting at places they can’t reach on their own!
However, the potentially positive aspects of having multiple cats are quickly negated in the face of “cohabitation anxiety.” Adult cats with a history of living alone are better off remaining solitary, unless you can provide enough space so that the cats are essentially living alone in the same home. It’s also important to be aware that cats can take a LONG time to learn to like each other. Dogs usually decide to be friends, or not, within a few hours or days. Cats, on the other hand, can take as long as a year to stop squabbling and start hanging out together.
Individual cats differ in levels of activity and sociability, primarily based on age, previous experience and exposure to other cats. You’ll need to consider these differences when making a match. Kittens, adolescents, and young adult cats can satisfy each other’s need for play by engaging in stalk-chase and wrestling games. Other suitable matches include pairing a kitten with an experienced adult female (this way, the female can take on a “motherly” role) or pairing a “bratty” adolescent with an older, more experienced cat. In some cases, a calm, mature adult with a history of maternal or social behavior can tolerate the inappropriate behavior of a younger cat with limited social skills, and in the process “teach” the youngster more socially acceptable behavior.
Space is an absolute necessity for multiple-cat homes. Providing access to an outdoor enclosure also significantly increases living space, except during the colder months when cats have little desire to be outside. Indoor cats do best with multiple sites for resting and hiding, so each cat can control the amount of interaction with others. Cats always need to have spots for hiding, so they can be alone and undisturbed whenever they feel the need. Multiple litter boxes are also advisable, so that each cat can feel safe while eliminating. The number of litter boxes should equal the number of cats you have, plus one. For example, if you have three cats, you will need four boxes. And, of course, provide plenty of scratching posts and toys to keep everyone happy. Food and water can be placed in a common area, as cats seem to enjoy congregating to eat. However, if you have a particularly timid cat, you may need to provide extra rations in a secluded area.
Should you decide to make yours a multiple-feline household, please keep in mind that your cats are not likely to be best buddies immediately. There are no guarantees, and it’s always best to be super cautious when introducing cats to each other. Please refer to our guidelines for introducing cats. And if you are adopting a cat who has already lived in a group at the shelter, consider adopting one of his or her friends. Introducing two friends to a new home can ease the transition, and you’ll be much more likely to have a successful merger.