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Cats – should you have more than one?

12 August, 2006

AnandaMaya1

(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.

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10 comments

  1. Hello! I think you should get either two MaineCoon kittens, OR if feasible two of each!!!??? I have found that often when you have more than three…like, perhaps, four or more, they all just
    pretty much get along fine; kind of like a feline UN.
    Peace,
    Jan, a lifelong cat lover


  2. Hi Jan,

    Thank you for reading my blog, and thank you for the great advice.

    I currently have a Maine Coon queen, her one-year-old male kitten and a Bengal girl. The problem seems to be between the Maine Coon queen and the Bengal neuter girl. The Bengal just doesn’t like her, and is very aggressive towards her.

    You think I should maybe get another Bengal?

    Wish I could get another Bengal, but I have too many already. And what if it made things worse … .

    How many cats do you have?

    Regards,

    Rona


  3. Hello

    Great book. I just want to say what a fantastic thing you are doing! Good luck!

    G’night


  4. Hello

    Such is life.


  5. Help! I have a Bengal cat male (9 mo old) and would like to get a Birman female kitten. My Bengal is very needy as well as vocal. Will he have a new playmate or is this a disaster waiting to happen?? I love both breeds!


  6. Dear Christine,

    Thank you for reading my blog.

    I can’t give you a 100% answer about whether you should get a Birman or not. All I can tell you is my personal experience, and that of a few other people who have had Bengals. Basically Bengals are highly-intelligent cats, with a low boredom threshold so they need plenty of attention and stimulation. They tend to be the boss cats. They are very loving and loyal to their humans. But when it comes to cats, it all depends from Bengal to Bengal. Some Bengals are quite sociable and will tolerate another cat. Others want to be the only cat. What advice does the Breeder of your Bengal give you?

    If your Bengal is an outdoor cat, then maybe that will take some of the edge off his energy. But again, I can’t guarantee that. The crucial point seems to be around 13 months of age, when they reach social maturity and start to assert themselves territory-wise.

    I am not familiar with Birmans, but I think that it’s supposed to be quite a gentle breed? You want to make sure that whatever kitten you get, it will be able to cope with your Bengal’s boisterousness.

    This is a hard decision to take. It is harder to go back on a decision once you’ve got the Birman kitten in your home. If it’s more a case that you want to have two cats, have you considered another Bengal instead?

    Best wishes and good luck!


  7. Interesting blog. I never expected to find someone who would want both a Bengal and a Maine Coon. I presently own just a Bengal, I do want to get her a companion but I am very reluctant to do so. Only a few weeks ago there was a kitten living in my yard. I eventually coaxed her inside with some food and Lena (my Bengal) became very upset.

    I thought that the behaviour would carry over to other cats so I have yet to contact any breeders. In the mean time I am buying Lena an outside cage so she can spend some time in the fresh air when I can’t take her out for a walk.

    Good luck with the cats.


  8. Hi,

    I loved the looks and temperament of the Maine Coon, it’s gentleness and beauty. And a friend of mine who’s a cat artist had 3 Bengals and I fell in love with them.

    So after my moggy died, I decided I wanted two cats and I decided to have one of each.

    When you commented “I never expected to find someone who would want both a Bengal and a Maine Coon”, did you mean in the sense that people who are into Maine Coons tend not to be into Bengals (in the same way as some people are doggy rather than catty people), or did you mean didn’t I realise they wouldn’t get on?

    If the former, well I guess I wanted the best of both worlds and I love cats in general. If the latter, well … I love the wildness of the Bengal. What I didn’t realise (and the Bengal breeder didn’t tell me) was that Bengals are very territorial and want to be boss cats.

    So, don’t even think about getting your Lena a companion. Not unless it’s a dog. For some reason, Bengals don’t mind dogs. Or another Bengal. When you have two Bengals, they squabble and fight, but because they have the same thick-skin, they forget easily.

    If you manage to get cat-proof fencing installed, your Bengal will love the freedom of the outdoors.

    Have you any photos of Lena? I’d love to see them.


  9. I have four Siamese cats.

    Two the them are boy/girl siblings. The other two are a year older. They are also male siblings.

    Note: there is only ONE female! She considers herself to be “Mama-cat”. In her mind, the three boys are her kittens. She endlessly grooms them and brings them “Prey” to play with, such as pipe-cleaners, furry mice or pieces of string. She always allows them to eat first. If she finds herself separated from them, she quite literally starts calling them, with loud “Ow-ow” noises, and will not shut up until she has located them all. She is very protective of them, and extremely territorial, tiny thing that she is.

    They all pile up together on beds and settees and are virtually inseparable. They are kept as indoor cats, having a large sunny outdoors pen and climbing frame.

    I know that IF I brought another female, of any age, into the house, spayed or not, there would be all hell to pay. I would probably have female Siamese marking, ie. peeing on floors and scratching up the carpets, curtains and furniture left right and centre!

    So, I say to anyone, don’t have more than one female in your house at any one time if you want nice happy kitties.


  10. Dear Caroline, Many thanks for sharing – I love it when people share their personal experiences because it’s more helpful than reading something in a book.

    My personal experience means that I agree with you! But it also depends on the breed of cat. I have a Bengal female neuter and a Maine Coon queen. The Maine Coon queen is very sweet. She doesn’t see herself as top cat. But the Bengal who is the same age thinks she is The One. Even though both cats grew up as kittens together from the age of 13 weeks, when they got to about 13 months, the Bengal became very territorial – this is the age when they reach social maturity.

    I think Maine Coons are more sociable and able to tolerate other cats. But Bengals must always be boss cats. Having said that I know Maine Coon breeders who have more than one female cat and there problems … hisses etc. I think the boy-girl combination is good, or the boy-boy combination.

    Best wishes,



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