So you’re considering adopting a new kitty, but you already have one. That’s great!You already know what to expect for the most part, and which things to take care of before the new arrival finds its way home. But you might be wondering what the pros and cons are of having several cats. So here we go!
The only kitty for me
The beauty of having just the one kitty is that they are focused on their owner. This is even more true for indoor cats, whose universe exists of the four walls they live in and the interaction with their human friends. This can create the most special bond, especially if it is just you and your kitty. If there are more humans in the house, you’ll find that kitty responds differently to each one and has a unique bond, tailor-fit to the two of them.
On the other hand, this also means that your cat is fully reliant on you for its social interaction and entertainment, especially with an indoor cat. This is one of the reasons that it is recommended to adopt 2 kittens at once - so they have each other to play with and help raise.
Given that many people are 8 hours a day plus commuting from home and haven’t usually heard of the term ‘environmental enrichment’ that can become taxing and lonely - even to a cat. And this can lead to problem behaviours such as property destruction- though this is more common in dogs - , over eating, apathy and depression, and general malaise due to boredom, lack of stimuli and even abandonment issues. Imagine being stuck between 4 walls all day, only to see a human who is busy cooking and unwinding for an hour or two before they go to bed, to then rinse and repeat with nothing else to do in life. Wouldn’t you go stark raving mad?
A lovely family addition
So what does adding a furball to the bunch do? Well, as much as this might be a good thing for your resident kitty - they may need some convincing.
Unlike dogs, cats cannot make new friends without 3 minutes. These things take time as cats tend to be way more focused on territory than on bonds with other cats. So start with giving them the best start in life and introduce them properly to each other. After that though, they can be anything from polite cohabitants to best buds for life - that is for them to figure out. That said, they won’t ever be alone even when you’re away on holiday so you won’t have to worry about them feeling alone and neglected - there will be action, warmth and stimuli for them to enjoy.
At the same time, realise you’ve just introduced a new personality to the mix. We are talking a living being, with its own wants and needs and particular quirks. And that kitty will need its own space and attention to be a happy cohabitant. While this can be an immensely rewarding feeling - building your own family - it does come with certain concerns. To minimise friction and keep the place fun for everyone, consider the following:
- Always adhere to the litter tray rule: number of cats + 1 litter box.
- Remove the lids from the litter trays so that they can see other cats coming to avoid potential incontinence problems caused by prey drive - in other words, one kitty hunting another that is going to the bathroom.
- Consider adopting a cat of the same gender as they live in separate groups in the wild too.
- A tom cat needs a lot more territory (4-5 rooms vs 1-2 rooms on average) than a queen.
- Put the litter trays in different rooms, preferably with 2 or more exits each to avoid guarding and bullying.
- Make sure there are enough food bowls, sleeping spots and scratching posts for everyone.
- Make sure you have enough pet carriers, and make the most out of em by using them as sleeping spots.
- Consider adding ‘vertical territory’ through cat furniture or shelving to maximise the space each cat has to themselves.
- Keep in mind that with the addition of each cat, the situation becomes infinitely more complex and prone to problem behaviour due to stress along with several medical issues, linked to multiple cat households (such as recurring kidney stones, urinary tract infections and crystals in the bladder likely caused by chronic stress).
That all said, with the right precautions it is most definitely rewarding to have a multiple cat household without having to stress the crap out of your colony. Much like with big human families however, it depends on the personalities involved which can be complex to predict and continue to evolve throughout their cohabitation. There is rarely a problem that cannot be addressed, as long as it gets addressed promptly and effectively. And in most cases, once the cats settle into their routine, they are perfectly comfortable and happy with their lives.
Too much of a good thing = 5+
Now, there is such a thing as too many cats. And the cut-off is pretty much at 5. Cats may be able to live in groups, but they aren’t wired for it. They do not have a complex hierarchal structure that allows them to live in big groups the way dogs or even humans do. And their primary focus on territory will eventually catch up with them, causing interpersonal conflicts to skyrocket as they fight over resources.
Once again, this is going to be an issue that most commonly surfaces with indoor cats, but unless you own a farm that has several kilometres of farm land where they can avoid each other and claim their own turf, it is a safe bet to stick with no more than 5 in any event. On top of that, it becomes increasingly harder to have a close bond with each cat, as the number rises. This also means that you’ll have a harder time following up on which one hasn’t been eating, or has been apathic for a day, and which one has been hiding or is limping simply because there are too many to check. Not to mention that sudden vet bills can become astronomic when one kitty infects another due to living in close proximity - and this is on top of the general maintenance costs of all these individuals. And that isn’t fair to you nor your cats.
So, before adopting your new fur ball, think about the situation at home. Think of what type of personality your resident cat(s) has, what your life style allows for, whether or not they’ll be indoors or outdoors and whether or not you’re ready to anticipate their needs with each added personality.
Make sure it is a win-win situation for everyone involved, so you can enjoy your life together with minimal fuss and maximal happiness.