Pet Connection: Adopting two cats can be better than one

12/13/2011 12:00 AM

12/12/2011 4:03 PM

We give cats the time we can spare and the love we can share from our busy schedules, but that's not always enough. Sometimes a furry friend of the feline persuasion helps to fill a cat's day when his people are away.

They can hear the flutter of a fly's wings or hear a mouse creeping in a crawl space you can't. They can get crazy on catnip together, groom each other with those raspy tongues, chase each other playfully in a game of zoom-around-the-room or just crash on the cat tree with each other while soaking up the sun during a catnap.

One of the many myths about cats is that they prefer to live alone, but that's not necessarily true. When people ask me about getting a second adult cat, I always encourage them to do so.

There will be a period of adjustment, of course. Shelter and colony studies show that it may take up to one year for a new adult cat to be accepted by other cats. But in many cases, if not most, it's worth the effort: Veterinary studies show that when cats have company, both cats are healthier. Animals with buddies are sick less often, require shorter stays when they are hospitalized and live longer.

The friendship usually works best if the cats are of the opposite sex. Two males or two females may each seek to be top cat, even if they are spayed or neutered. Another pairing that works well is an older cat and a younger cat. The presence of a youngster can enliven an adult cat who may have lost some of his spark or put on a little pudge.

The easiest way to go about it is to adopt a pair at once. Bonded pairs are commonly available for adoption, typically littermates raised together. They're often overlooked by people who insist on a single cat, or on kittens, but they're ideal for adopting if you don't already have a cat but are ready to open your home and your heart.

If you already have one cat, though, adopting a bonded pair may not be wise:

Cats seem to get along best in even-numbered groups. When there's an odd cat out, he may get picked on or develop aggression toward the other cats in an attempt to make his way to the top of the tabby totem pole.

Two cats are twice the pleasure, but not twice the effort to care for, especially if you're adopting a pair of healthy, neutered adults from a good rescue group or shelter. While most bonded pairs of cats will happily share everything from your bed to the cat tree, one thing many will insist on is not sharing a litter box. To keep your cats from thinking outside the box, have one litter box for each cat, plus one more.

It's well worth the modest extra effort, though. If there's anything better than one loving cat in your home, it's a pair of purring pals.

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