Cats – should you have more than one?12 August, 2006
(photo of Maya and Ananda when they were kittens – about 4 months’ of age – when love and harmony still reigned …)
Until about 2 years ago I only had one cat. She was a semi-longhaired tortoiseshell called Sophie. Sophie came to us when she was about 7 years old. Her owner was a friend of Hubby’s. He was a journalist who travelled a great deal, and was moving house and currently living at his mother’s. His mother wasn’t a fan of cats, and Sophie had already been boarding for the past 6 months with his neighbours who mysteriously had to go on holiday. So Hubby was persuaded to have her for three weeks.
I wasn’t so keen. We were living in a one-bedroom flat then, and I knew that despite my husand’s promises, I would be the primary caretaker for Sophie.
When we opened her basket, Sophie took one look at us and fled. She ran into the bedroom and into the cupboard. No amount of coaxing would get her out until – brainwave! – I found some prawns and waved them in front of where she was hiding. Suddenly, a little pink nose peeked out between the coats, then a muzzle, and a little tongue daintily licked a prawn. I held the plate further and further away until she came out and ate.
Sophie lived with us until she died, over two years ago, at the age of 14. Suddenly, there was no Sophie. No cat. My heart had this huge, empty hole in it.
It was then that I decided that if ever I got a cat again I would get two so that if I lost one, there would still be another to love and fill the emptiness.
I was under the impression that cats need cat companions, so one cat could keep the other company when no one was around.
I have since come to revise that opinion. While some cats don’t mind the company of their species, cats are territorial creatures and prefer to be in single-cat households.
It took me awhile to come round to that reality. And it took the hostility between my Bengal neuter and Maine Coon queen to drive that home.
They were brought up as kittens, and would play with each other as kittens, but kittens grow into cats and relationships change with age. The crucial age when cats decide whether they can get along with each other seems to be around 18 months when they reach social maturity.
In my case, the Bengal decided she wanted to be top cat and really didn’t want another cat around, especially if the other cat was a female.
OK – I know a number of people who have more than one cat, and it seems to work. They’ve said that it helps if the cats are of different sexes, have been brought up together since kittenhood.
It also helps if the cats are of breeds that are able to co-exist with other cats. A cat behaviourist has said that in her experience (and that of other cat behaviourists) the top three cats for behavioural problems relating to inter-cat aggression are: Siamese, Burmese and Bengals. A friend of mine who is a Bengal breeder has told me that Bengals want to be top cats.
I’m not knocking Siamese, Burmese and Bengals – remember I have a Bengal girl myself whom I dearly love. I think these breeds are highly-intelligent and vocal and very beautiful. And, at the end of the day, whether two cats get on or not depends on their personalities
Maybe there will be Siamese, Burmese and Bengal breeders reading this who will jump to the defense of these wonderful cats with examples of inter-breed harmony. And I know there are breeders who breed both Maine Coons and Bengals and claim they get on fine. Great! I’m open to anything that will help people understand cats better and help cats get on with each other better.
I think though, if I were doing it again, I would either get two Maine Coons or two Bengals. And a male and a female from the same litter. And make sure both are neutered fairly early on.