By Sharon Billings, CVT
Senior Veterinary Information Specialist
Are you considering adopting a new feline family member? If so, then I have a suggestion for you: make it a DOUBLE and you can “double your pleasure, double your fun”!
A few of the benefits of adopting two cats:
- They provide physical exercise for each other. My two cats, Oscar and Phoebe, can be heard several times a day thundering through the house, bouncing off furniture and ricocheting off walls as they play kitty “tag”. In “quieter” times they play fetch / catch with stuffed toys. Whew! I get tired out just watching them!
- They provide mental stimulation for each other. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they never get into mischief, but my two are never bored. It’s fascinating to watch them teach / learn together. Not only does their interaction provide fantastic entertainment for me and my geriatric dog, Bridget, but the two kitties have a blast!
- They help groom each other. Cats, of course, are fastidious groomers and very agile but even the most flexible feline cannot reach every single spot! Two cats may help each other by grooming those hard-to-reach spots like the back of the neck and the ears – practical and fun to watch!
- They help each other just be cats. Let’s face it – no matter how good a cat parent I may be I am still not, alas, a cat. Oscar and Phoebe both clearly enjoy having someone who “gets” them.
Now, before you head down to your local shelter to find your two little purring bundles fur, there is some preparation and planning to do. And so, I present the story of Oscar and Phoebe, a “Tail” of Two Kitties!
Previously, my home had held only one cat at a time. I always hesitated to add a second cat because I worried the resident cat may not accept the newcomer. So, last fall when my dog Bridget and I found ourselves contemplating adding a feline to our family, I realized this was my golden opportunity to have TWO kitties!
I expected I might find two bonded adult cats in need of a home. I figured the two would already be feline BFFs which would make for a relatively easy transition for everyone. But that was not what fate had in store for me! Instead, I learned of two cats who were rescued and being fostered at a local emergency veterinary clinic – a stray who was brought to the clinic after being hit by a vehicle and a feral kitten who was rescued by a clinic veterinary technician. Aha, I thought, here are my two kitties!
But there was a small problem. It turns out, the first face-to-face meeting between these two did not go very well and clinic staff members were concerned that these two might not be compatible housemates. I was confident that these two could live harmoniously and happily under the same roof, even if they never became feline BFFs, but I needed a plan to ensure a positive transition for everyone.
So, with lots of advice from my veterinarian I went shopping and prepared the household for the new arrivals. The transition would be done in gradual steps: introduce the kitties to each other, to the rest of the house, and to Bridget. I cleared most of the furniture out of my home office, a.k.a. the cat room, installed a baby gate on the cat room door, and set up two extra-large dog kennels, each one with bedding, litter box, food/water and toys. Then each kennel was shrouded top-to-bottom with a bed sheet to provide a bit of privacy and to prevent staring contests. Oh, and one last thing: I plugged in two Feliway Multi-cat diffusers. NOTE: I normally avoid recommending any specific brand but this particular Feliway product is especially designed for multi-cat situations and as best I know there’s nothing else out there that utilizes the specific pheromone that promotes the “all-one-big-happy-family” vibe that we needed. And I needed all the help I could get!
Finally, the adoption day arrived and I brought home two meowing cat carriers! I was thrilled to welcome my two new kitties but a little nervous, too – I really wanted their introduction to go smoothly! At first, I kept both kitties confined to the cat room and alternated having one at a time come out into the room for exercise and exploration. The kitties gradually began peeking under the bed sheets and could smell / hear / see each other. Yes, there were some hisses and growls but I could tell they were both mainly curious. And when they were both in their kennels, I could raise some sides of the bed sheets so everyone had plenty of daylight and fresh air. Next, I started leaving the sheets flipped up to allow more visual contact. So far so good . . .
Eventually, one at a time, the kitties were givenaccess to the rest of the house. Next step was interspecies introductions. Bridget had always been fine with cats but these two didn’t know that so at first Bridget stayed safely behind a baby gate while the kitties checked her out. So far so good . . .
Final step: I needed to take a deep breath and let both kitties out in the cat room TOGETHER! It was quite anti-climactic although there were still a few hisses. Perhaps I’d worried for nothing, but still I figured it’s better to be safe than sorry. Next, they explored the house together. So far so good . . .
Over the next couple months they began playing and sleeping together. It didn’t happen overnight but I am delighted to report they are now feline BFFs!
Now that I know how much fun it is, my only regret is that I did not make my household multi-cat much, much sooner!
So, my advice to you: make it a double! You will more than DOUBLE the pleasure and fun for everyone!