Cats Love the Company of Other Cats: Debunking the Myth

Do they really look happy? Or just on alert?


Okay, about cats… 

This morning I read a Facebook post by a friend who’s under pressure from her husband and two young sons to adopt another cat (kitten) when they already have one perfectly happy cat.  The responses to her post were overwhelmingly pro-adopt the second cat and roll with the punches.

It’s a lovely thought; that you can keep adding cats into your household and everything will work out. 

It is a myth that cats need company. Almost all prefer to be “only” children and sooner or later will “act out”.

For 30 plus years, I’ve lived in a multiple-cat household, and am now in the midst of a two-cat dominance issue that’s been simmering for… awhile.  I’ve counseled friends and family multiple times.

Working at a veterinarian’s office the past six years and observing the angst cat owners go through (and trust me, it will cause marital issues when one spouse refuses to put up with it anymore…) has solidly confirmed my suspicions.

I never thought I—cat lady/lover extraordinaire—would be in this unpopular position, but I’m firmly in favor of a single cat household.

Here’s why:

All cats are alpha cats.    

            Cats only tolerate each other’s presence.  Kittens don’t count.  They grow up.

            Even if one acts like he’s acquiescing to another, he’s not.  Cats are passive/aggressive creatures who will find a way to pay back the other cat.  He may not confront the other cat directly, but instead might urinate outside the litter box to show the other cat who’s really in charge: who’s really the Alpha.  (Yes, there are very complex, very unwilling cat heirarchy’s but… again, they all consider themselves Alpha.)

A cat is more-than-perfectly-happy being the only cat.         

            Years ago, this was never brought home more clearly than after I unexpectedly lost two of  three cats within two weeks of each other.  When the first one didn’t make it out of surgery after my vet found a huge tumor, I walked around numbly in a stupor of tears.  I couldn’t forgive myself for not noticing the extra “fat” she’d put on was actually a tumor.  E.K. was fourteen, a mere youngster.

            Within a week, Coda collapsed.  He had an underlying condition that weakened him to the point of no return.  He was 17 and could not survive surgery, so we had to put him to sleep.  The experience left me adrift with grief and convinced he weakened because of my sadness over E.K.

            I was crazy with fear his brother, Kubi, would also deteriorate into some unknown health issue.  I remember tiptoeing into the house, worried I’d find him sick over the loss of not one, but two housemates; one his own brother.

            You never saw a happier cat in your life!  He had always been the shy one, the recluse in the presence of the others, but he suddenly became an affectionate lap-cat who purred so loud the house reverberated.

Cats are very adept at hiding stress, but… it can manifest in other ways:

            -Urine infections

            -Behavioral urinating and defecating outside the box

            -Hair loss

            -Indigestion problems

            -Destructive behavior

            -Other health issues

            I’ll leave it at that, except to say, I’ve seen it over and over and over again; with my cats, those of friends and relatives, and clients. 

It’s hard to figure out who’s the culprit:  Who’s needling who?         

            Another personal example:  Currently we have two cats; Emmy and Blue Blue.  Emmy had a sister, Gracie, who died five years ago.  Emmy and Blue barely suffered each other’s presence from the beginning, but without Gracie to deflect their mutual dislike, their animosity has escalated.

            Emmy is the aloof one; Blue is the purr-baby, the cuddler, the spoiled-rotten-apple of my eye.

Really, who except Emmy can resist this guy?

            Because Emmy is vocal about expressing her displeasure with the dog, the cat, us… in hisses and growls, I’d always assumed she was the trouble-maker.

            Then one day, I noticed what was really happening.  Very quietly, very irritatingly, my sweet Blue stalked her and sat as close he could to her without touching her, until she got so mad she hissed and jumped away.  He slid into her nicely warmed spot and fell fast asleep—happy.  Elsewhere, she was pacing, tail switching; seething.  And, she was itching for revenge.

Or, she likes to hide/regroup in my studio.

This You Tube video is not of my cats, but it is very representative.  It’s only funny if they’re not your cats. 


So, how can you avoid these issues if you do add a second cat?  You probably can’t.  A kitten will provide much distraction (because they are so cute; I always want another) and there may seem to be no problems for awhile—even years.

At some point, you may have to keep them in separate rooms or floors of the house, add additional litter boxes (ideally, even in calm households, the minimum is one per cat plus an extra and these should be in different areas of the house), feed them in separate areas and more.  Much more.

Most cat owners are in denial about this issue because they want their babies to get along.

Trust me, I’ve been in that category for years, plus there are so many homeless pets, you want to help. 

Cats can live to age 25 if taken care of properly.  Something to think about when evaluating your lifestyle and the possibility of how much more complicated it can get when dealing with cat compatibility issues.  Even with sibling cats, they forget they’re related and one day confirm they hate each other.

A cat might not love a canine presence, but… most will adapt if you want a second pet.

The dog’s always ready to referee!

My husband was right (Do you hear that, Honey?) when he observed we had it wrong; we should have two dogs and one cat instead of the other way around.  Everyone would be happier.  Most dogs genuinely like each other’s company after settling who’s Alpha.

I love cats, but…  in the future, I do not purposefully intend to house more than one cat at a time.  Mine are both around 12-13 now, so… I have no plans beyond keeping a lid on things as they are. 

And for questions on how I’m managing that… “Part II” could be forthcoming.  =^.^= 

No doubt my friend will receive scores of advice from others recounting how happy their multiple cat households are.  Either they are overlooking/minimizing the incidents because they are in denial, or are ignorant of what’s really going on; the tensions haven’t surfaced yet, or… they are not being totally honest (again, back to the denial factor).

I voted for my friend to add a dog instead of a cat to her household as there is an uplifting, almost clown-like quality a dog brings into a home.

A dog’s presence is more of an ANNOUNCEMENT while a cat’s is a subtle telegram.

But, to segue into dog lore is yet another chapter.  J

It’s been a long road, but I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion it is truly a myth that a cat needs a second cat (or more) to keep it company.  I feel so strongly qualified to comment on this subject, I didn’t even Google it!  ~ JD here. 

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20 Responses to Cats Love the Company of Other Cats: Debunking the Myth

  1. Janean says:

    I LOVE IT! I’m so glad you sent me the fact based life experience e-mail this morning that became this blog post complete with pictures of your menagerie and a You Tube video too! Best of all, was when you added, “I didn’t even Google it!” (Since I do that when I’m writing too.) Your description of your two cats, and the way Blue steals Emmy’s warm spot and annoys her by lookin’ at her and sittin’ too close reminded me of my siblings and I pushing the envelope of what was allowed as we pestered one another just because we lived in the same house and had nothing else to do at the moment.

    • JD says:

      Thanks, Janean! I did try to find the Sunny Delight commercial of the little boy trying to bug his sister while holding his finger inches from her face and chanting “I’m not touching you!” but… research showed the words were changed to the more PC version “I’m not bugging you”; then the commercial seems to have disappeared from the face of cyber-space. Glad you loved the blog! =^.^=

    • Paula says:

      I was thinking the same thing – especially car trips. Mom put tape on the seats to define our space!

  2. Janean says:

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom on this Single vs. Multiple Cat(s) question. A dog is a possibility, just more of a wait at this time. A cat we could do now, a dog we’d most likely wait until summertime. You’ll be among the first to know whenever we do add a canine or feline to our household. ~ Janean

  3. Paula says:

    We had Boy Cat and Girl Cat -when he died – she went over to the bar and lifted a glass and roared – the King is dead – Long live the Queen. Sibling cats and I always thought she was the shy one – until she became the Queen.

  4. Janean says:

    ^ I love Paula’s description of her One Cat Household. Perhaps women are more intuitive about Cat Moods and that’s why it’s the Man and Boys in my house wanting another. Quantity over Quality and all of that. I’d rather have one Happy Cat, than two Mad Cats.

    JD – I’d forgotten about that commercial! I can’t believe it’s no where to be found. Did you, google it?! 😉

    • JD says:

      Janean, it is a great description, isn’t it?

      And yes… I spent far too much time Googling, re-Googling, and reviewing possible leads before figuring it had been removed probably because of the flak for changing the words to be politically correct… (see previous comment). Sigh. But since I did see it at one time, the sing-song “I’m not touching you” is forever etched in my memory! 🙂

  5. Janean says:

    So…my boys and I stopped by the animal shelter last night. Each of the three of us would have picked a different cat. Any scientific, or non-scientific studies on bringing a male cat into a house with an older female cat? My youngest chose a boy cat. He was a lover too. It was a gray girl with white that caught my eye. Though she squeaked a bit more than the boy. Both reached their paws through the cage bars to us, inviting us to pet them through the cage. How I hate seeing animals in cages. Breaks my heart. Then there was this dog…even though he was a boy and not a girl dog like I had in my head it’d have to be to get one. Even though this whole conversation is tabled indefinitely. Circumstances and all. I go back and forth between Bad Guy and going along with it. Stay tuned…though most likely it’ll be status quo. ~ Janean

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