Sometimes I look at the way my three cats interact and I think that two out of three of them would not mind being only cats. Binga is definitely a people cat, and her relationships with Sparkle and Boodie are secondary – and sometimes fractious. Sparkle is often indifferent to her feline roommates. Only Boodie goes out of her way to seek out the company of the other cats. Even so, all three will spend much of the day sleeping in separate areas, often on different floors of the house.
But just when I’m really starting to wonder if I’ve forced these kitties on each other, they show that they really do care about one another. The other night I was giving Sparkle some hairball remedy and she accidentally inhaled a little bit and started coughing. While I was assessing her to see if she needed a trip to the emergency vet (she was okay after a few minutes), Binga leapt on the bed and nosed up to her, clearly concerned. Then there was that incident at the vet clinic. Maybe living with other cats wouldn’t have been the first choice for this pair, but now they have bonded, the same way that human siblings bond – they may not have much in common, but the family ties are strong.
Then there was my soul cat, Harlot. This semi-feral girl did not want anyone, feline or otherwise, to come between the two of us. I had an elderly cat when I first brought her home, and they disliked each other from the start. Fur didn’t fly, but they coexisted uneasily until the older cat died. Harlot didn’t mourn for a second. Her whole attitude was, “Now I have you all to myself!” And that’s the way it was until my fiancé moved in – and she resented him. She resented him even more when he brought home a dog! Harlot’s true preference was to be an only cat … to be my only companion, in fact.
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Cats aren’t pack animals like dogs, and they don’t need as much social interaction to thrive as people do. But most of them do need social ties of some sort, and usually it is healthiest for them if they get that from more than just the one person who is responsible for them. Often, that means a second cat. It also takes a load off the cat’s person, since he or she is not the cat’s single source of companionship. Although all three of my cats have personality quirks, I think they are a lot less neurotic for having each other around on a daily basis.
It is true that cats take much longer to warm up to each other than dogs do (sometimes weeks or months), and that careful introductions are always necessary when introducing a new cat into the home. But aside from loner cats, like my Harlot, or aggressive cats who clearly don’t want another feline companion, I do believe most cats are happiest in twos or threes.