image of a cat in a box

Most Do Best Alone in the Jungle

Question:
I adopted two female cats from the shelter 3 years ago. One was a year old; the other was three. The younger one has always been energetic and playful, while the other’s favorite activities were sleeping, observing, and hiding. The older cat recently died. I’m now wondering if my remaining cat “needs” a friend. I’d prefer to not adopt an additional cat due to the risk of unknowingly choosing one that comes with high medical bills or potential behavior problems.

Dr. Nichol:
I’m sorry for the loss of your older kitty. Despite how much you and your remaining cat miss her an attempt to “fill the void” could go badly. Kittens are generally pretty good about adapting to a new roomie but grown-up cats can be curmudgeonly or worse.

Cats have been called a socially asocial species, meaning that they can certainly form strong bonds with others of their ilk but few of them have an intense gut-level need for a bosom pal. Adult kitties who were not raised in a free-living feline colony or a multi-cat household may treat a newcomer with scorn, dirty tricks, or outright violence.

You can make life excellent for your solitary cat without risking conflict or financial calamity. Her genetic programming for predation can be satisfied with hunt-and-pounce toys. She needs alone time in hide boxes at various heights in different rooms. She must also climb, jump and perch as high as your ceilings. Indoor kitties should be allowed to live like real cats. By turning the inside of your house into a simulated Wild Kingdom you won’t gamble with future feline fisticuffs, urine wars, or an additional cat encumbered with medical maladies.

Cats whose people foist an unwelcome competitive creature into a confined space (house or apartment) with them struggle with diminished welfare. If your kitty is fulfilled in her enriched home, be assured that she harbors no secret yearning for a feline BFF. Empathy toward the needs of others matters, regardless of species. At our house, if the cat ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Or, put differently, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.