Cats have a reputation as grumpy, solitary animals. This is not entirely fair. While cats are not pack animals and need time alone, many felines enjoy company. This is especially true if you have gained the trust of your cat.
Cats like social interaction, but assign territory so your cat can retreat for solitude when necessary. If your cat enjoys the company of other animals, consider getting a second cat. Most cats only want company when they actively seek it. If a cat is bothered by others when it prefers to be alone, it will grow stressed or aggressive.
Some cats are happy to be alone and reject company. Other felines grow lonely if left alone too long. Learn which category your cat falls into. With this information, you can better cater to your cat’s social needs.
Do Cats Prefer to Live Alone?
Do humans like to live alone? The answer is, “that depends on the person.” The same applies to cats. Felines do not share a hive mind. Every cat has its own personality. Some cats are cantankerous and keep to themselves. Others prefer to live with others.
By nature, cats are comparatively solitary. Unlike canines, felines are not an instinctive pack species. Cats prefer to hunt alone, for example, and certainly to eat alone. What’s more, cats are territorial. This means that sharing does not come naturally.
There are exceptions to this rule. Cats are governed by survival instinct. Felines understand their size and place on the food chain. As per Animal Behavior, feral cats tend to form colonies. This ensures that the cats offer each other protection.
In a domestic setting, this is unnecessary. After all, as a cat parent, you provide all the protection your pet needs. Once you have gained your cat’s trust, it will feel safe around you. That does not change the fact that some cats actively enjoy company.
Note the use of the word, “some” above. It’s quite possible that your cat is perfectly happy being alone. It may enjoy the peace and quiet of a largely empty home. It will certainly relish not having to share food, litter trays or territory.
Other cats struggle with prolonged periods of solitude. They grow bored and lonely. This will cause stress to the cat, which is dangerous. Prolonged periods of stress place pressure on the heart, and lead to behavioral issues. Assess whether you cat is lonely, taking action if so.
Is My Cat Lonely?
Young cats are likeliest to suffer from loneliness. Kittens instinctively seek out playmates. Younger cats are also rarely apart from their mother for prolonged periods. This means that excessive periods of solitude can become distressing.
Older cats can also grow lonely. This is especially likely after a change in circumstances. If a cat is rehomed, for example, it will need to undergo a period of readjustment. This may involve adapting to life alone having previously shared a home with another animal.
It may surprise you that a cat is lonely. After all, cats often struggle to co-exist. Even if this the case, a cat will miss a former feline housemate. Having another cat around becomes part of your cat’s routine. Even if they fight, that became a daily activity that will be missed.
Separation anxiety is a key sign of loneliness in cats. When you leave the house, the cat grows distressed. It may behave destructively in such instances, scratching and breaking objects. As per the Journal of the American Veterinary Association, cats with separation anxiety also eliminate outside the litter box. Other signs that your cat is lonely include:
- Clinginess whenever you are home
- Grooming to excess
- Visiting other homes for company
If you notice these behaviors and warnings, take action. There are multiple options to manage feline loneliness. Before you rush out and get a second cat, ensure you have exhausted other options.
Preventing Loneliness in Cats
Your first step is managing your cat’s loneliness. A lonely cat is not necessarily social. Felines are complex. The cat may dislike being left alone, but not welcome other animals in the home. That will mean sharing and competing for resources.
Before considering a second pet, try to soothe your cat’s solitude by other means. You may find that improving your cat’s day-to-day life calms down.
Routine is important to cats. If a cat feels like its needs will not be reliably met, it will grow anxious. This anxiety can lead to loneliness. The cat will feel that, if it cannot trust you, it must find somebody else to help out.
As per Current Biology, cats are more than capable of forming strong bonds with human owners. Establishing a firm and reliable routine is the way to achieve this. That means:
- Feeding your cat at the same time each day
- Playing with your cat at least twice a day, ideally at set times
- Petting and grooming your cat at set times
- Avoiding disruption, such as erratically scheduled lengthy periods of solitude
Once you have established a routine, your cat will trust you. This means that the cat will likely accept you as its sole source of company. Take the time to get this routine locked in place. You and your cat will both benefit from such effort.
Keeping your cat calm will also help stave off loneliness. The more sedate your cat is, the likelier it is to relax and doze the day away. This way, it will reserve its energy and waking hours for when you are home. It lacks the opportunity to miss you and grow lonely.
If possible, play cat-specific music for your cat while you are away. The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery confirms that this has a soothing effect. You can download this from the internet or pick it up on CD. It’s more impactful than simply leaving the radio on.
You could also use scents to keep your cat calm. The following aromas are considered soothing to cats:
- Worn human clothing
A safer alternative to scented candles or room diffusers, which can be broken, is Feliway spray. Once again, the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery confirms this is impactful.
Boredom and loneliness go hand in hand for felines. Both circumstances will plunge a cat into stress. If your cat has sufficient mental stimulation during the day, it is unlikely to grow lonely. It will be too busy going about its business to notice a lack of company.
Toys are obviously to key to this. Be mindful of the risks associated with toys. Most cats need to be supervised during play in case of choking hazards. Some toys, such as noisy balls or puzzles, can be enjoyed without observation.
You should also supply your cat with a scratching post and cat tree. Where possible, combine both of these stimuli into one. Scratching and climbing will give your cat plenty to do. If possible, give your cat something safe to dig.
You should also consider leaving curtains or drapes open. Cats can see through glass, and the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science confirms that windows are a key source of entertainment. Cats will enjoy watching birds in your yard.
Visits from Humans
Many people choose cats as pets as they work long hours. Cats have a reputation as independent and fine alone for prolonged periods. This is true to an extent, but do not overestimate a cat’s tolerance for solitude.
If you will be away from the home for hours at a time, arrange company for your cat. Ask a friend or neighbor to visit once a day. They do not need to stick around for long. The cat will just appreciate seeing a familiar face, ideally one that offers treats and petting.
This is important if your cat tends to visit other homes during the day. A lonely cat will seek out company elsewhere. This may involve gaining access to a neighbor’s home and seeking attention from them.
In theory, this is win-win if the neighbor does not mind. Both cat and human enjoy each other’s company. No cat should have two homes, though. This can lead to confusion.
The cat may be fed twice and gain weight. It may also eventually decide it prefers this second home and wish to stay put. It will then become increasingly difficult to bring your cat home.
If you’re struggling to keep a single cat content, think carefully before getting a second pet. In theory, the two animals will keep each other company. In practice, you’ll have twice as much work on your hands.
You’ll also double your expenses. You’ll need two sets of food, two sets of insurance, two sets of veterinary bills. Financial implications may be secondary to your cat’s comfort but must be taken under advisement.
In addition, cats loathe change. There are few things more disruptive to a cat’s routine than bringing a new pet home. You are going to need to take the time to settle both animals into an appropriate routine. Don’t just throw them together and hope they co-exist.
If you have exhausted other solutions, a second pet may be the only option. Test the water first by ‘borrowing’ an animal and seeing how your cat reacts. You’ll also need to consider what type of animal is best for your cat.
Appropriate Company for Cats
Animal company can be great for cats if done right. You’ll need to think long and hard about the right choice, though. Different cats have different needs.
If seeking another animal for company, you’ll likely consider getting a second cat. There are definite advantages to this. The two cats will speak a common language. You already know how to care for a cat. Your home is equipped for such pets.
Do be mindful about introducing a second cat to your home. This can be long and awkward process. No matter how lonely it may be, your existing cat will initially reject an infiltrator. In addition, the new cat will immediately seek to claim territory. Conflict is inevitable.
Kittens are less likely to be confrontational. Young cats come with their own challenges though, especially if paired with a resident older feline. The kitten will want to play near-constantly. The older cat will find this infuriating.
Equally, this doesn’t mean that two middle-aged or senior cats are necessarily a better pairing. Both cats will be firmly set in their ways. This will make compromise challenging. Unless they are compatible personalities, the cats will clash.
Getting a second cat can be great. If you can make it work, both cats will benefit. Just be mindful to pair cats according to age, size, temperament and energy levels. A mismatch can create bigger problems than loneliness.
It’s true that these animals frequently clash. They can forge unlikely friendships, though. It’s all about finding compatible breeds of each species.
Avoid pairing a dog with a high hunting drive, such as a terrier. These dogs will bark at, and chase, a cat. This will lead to friction, intimidation and eventually conflict.
Larger dogs are also best avoided, not matter how docile. A larger dog may not know its own strength and inadvertently hurt a cat during play. Cats also consider attack the best form of defense. If intimidated by the size of a dog, the cat is likely to attack on sight.
A small, patient dog can co-exist peacefully with a cat. Just ensure the dog is regularly exercised so it does not bother or harass the cat. In addition, a dominant dog is a strict no-no. Any canine in a cat house must accept being second in the pecking order.
If managed carefully, cats and rabbits can make fine housemates. In many respects, the two animals have similar temperaments. They both enjoy bursts of energy and play, but an otherwise relaxing environment. They are also compatible sizes, in many cases.
Just be aware of one important factor; cats are predators, and rabbits are prey animals. To this end, you cannot simply place the two species together. They must be introduced slowly and steadily, getting to know each other from afar. Eventually, they will accept each other.
What’s more, rabbits are almost as territorial as cats. This means each animal will needs its own safe space. If exposed to each other too much, tempers will flair. If a fight breaks out, there will only be one winner. Cats are much more decisive in conflict than rabbits.
Eventually, cats and rabbits can live together freely. They may even become good friends. Just don’t leave them alone together until you are certain this is the case.
Never keep small animals, such as hamsters, in a cat house. This will excite the cat, but not in the spirit of companionship. The cat will simply see a snack. There is no chance of the animals becoming friends.
Many small animals are master escapists, so leaving them in a cage will not help. Eventually they’ll get out, and the cat will hunt them. There is no such thing as a fair fight between a cat and a domesticated rodent.
Even if the cat does not actively touch the rodent, it will terrify a small animal. The cat will likely stalk the cage 24/7, waiting for an opportunity to strike. Eventually, this will likely frighten a small animal to death. Its heart cannot take so much stress.
Fish and Reptiles
Reptiles, such as snakes, cannot be paired with cats. If you have a snake, it must remain in a terrarium. Both of these animals are instinctively afraid of each other. Exposure will create avoidable stress. This can also lead to physical confrontations.
Neither animal is likely to come out of a fight well. Even nonvenomous snake bites can hurt. Your cat may also experience an allergic reaction to snake saliva. The cat, meanwhile, is likely to do serious – possibly even fatal – damage to a snake.
Fish may seem like a strange choice of companion animal. Obviously they cannot physically interact with a cat. A fish tank can provide stimulation, though. A cat will happily stare at this enclosure for hours.
Do not let your cat claw at fish in a tank, or potentially fall in. These concerns make a pond inadvisable. If you do have a pond, ensure it is covered safely. This will protect the inhabitants and your cat.
Only you will know if your cat is a loner or sociable. Even amiable cats need time alone, so factor this into any consideration. Focus on getting your cat into a reliable routine and meeting needs.