It’s no secret that cat adoptions have soared during the pandemic, especially in its early months. Of course, if you’re reading Tufts Catnip, you no doubt already have a cat, but perhaps you’ve been considering bringing home a second one. Or maybe you’ve wondered for a while whether to adopt another cat, even before the pandemic began. Here are the questions to answer before making your decision.
Can I afford a second cat? By itself, a little more food for a second cat isn’t much of an expense. Neither is the extra litter box you’re going to need (two cats should actually have three litter boxes to remain most comfortable about relieving themselves) or the extra litter you’ll need to purchase each week. But together, they do add up over time. Throw in the toys all cats should have, and the day-to-day costs start to accumulate.
On top of the routine expenses, consider the annual or semi-annual visits for routine veterinary exams and the inevitable health emergency as the cat ages. Even if you protect healthcare costs from skyrocketing by purchasing pet health insurance — which we think is a great idea — health insurance for two cats will increase the price of your premiums.
We say this not to discourage you from spreading the love to a second feline. We are thrilled for more cats to find secure home lives. But you should not ignore the financial commitment.
Do I have the time to devote to a second cat? The cat already living in your home may be able to provide some social stimulation and comfort for the new one. But your current cat is not going to groom your new pet, brush his teeth, stroke him when he feels like getting some comforting attention, pull a string with a bell attached along the floor for the new housemate, or shine a light beam along a wall for the second pet to chase. And if you’re considering a kitten, the older cat already in your home is not going to show him how to use the litter box or scratching post. Yes, there’ll be some learning through observation, but very young cats often need help beyond that.
Again, we’re not trying to dissuade you but, rather, help you think through the time commitment so that your second pet is well cared for and you don’t end up feeling frustrated and guilty about not giving your new pet the attention he both needs and deserves.
Will the new cat be a good match in personality and temperament for the cat I already have? Once you know you are comfortable about the added expense of a second cat as well as devoting the extra time a new pet will need, you want to make sure the two cats will be okay with each other. For instance, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that “quiet cats should be matched with those of similar temperament.”
A shelter or breeder should be able to give you some information about how forward or shy a cat is, but the AVMA also points out that “an adult cat should allow handling and petting without hissing or scratching.” And “a kitten should be relaxed when picked up and handled.” In other words, no matter what the personality, the cat should feel comfortable about your touching him and paying attention to him. That bodes well for the cat waiting at home.
We should note that if you’re choosing a cat from a shelter, the potentially noisy and unfamiliar environment there might not allow a cat to be his best self. To get a better read, you may be able to foster a cat you have in mind before making a final decision.
When you bring the cat home, either to foster or adopt outright, start with supervised introductions with the cat already there. And increase the interactions gradually, perhaps putting the cats in different rooms for periods of separation until the two do not feel wary around each other. They usually work it out.
The Animal Humane Society reminds people taking in a second cat to be sensitive to the fact that that this will be a big change for the feline already in residence. To min-imize the disruption, you should give the cat you already love the security of his usual routine and also his own special time with you.
When it comes to acclimating the two cats to each other, the process will take at least 4 to 6 weeks, the society says. They may never become best buddies (you can’t “make” two cats like each other), but you can call the process successful if they end up living peacefully as they share their home.