One cat or two?
January 6, 2011 7:16 PM   Subscribe

One cat or two?

I am considering adopting two kittens. I have only ever owned a single cat but some googling tells me that having two cats has its advantages. Some questions spring to mind: Should they be siblings? Does gender matter (MM/MF/FF)? How much space is required for two indoor only cats? Are two cats really better than one in your experience?
posted by vegetable100% to Pets & Animals (44 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
2 or more is better. Especially if they are related.
Cats are best enjoyed in quantity. Like potato chips.
posted by yesster at 7:20 PM on January 6, 2011 [22 favorites]

2 is better--a lot of times shelters will have 2 siblings that are already in the same cage, so that's your best bet.
posted by katypickle at 7:23 PM on January 6, 2011

two cats don't need much more room than one cat. getting them as kittens is best - i've always preferred siblings. gender doesn't matter much as long as they're both fixed (and if you get a boy, that he wasn't fixed "too late").

i find cats to be playful longer and generally better behaved when there are two rather than one. i don't see a lot of change between 2 and 3.
posted by nadawi at 7:24 PM on January 6, 2011

I have always had a better experience when I had two cats. My two now aren't cuddly or snuggly together, but they definitely amuse each other, they still play chase and pounce and stalking games, etc. They're very jealous of me; if one is on my lap or curled up next to me the other one will run off like "I didn't want to love on you anyways!" :) but I feel much better about leaving the house with them having each other for company. I really want to resist ascribing too much human feeling here, but I do think it makes them less self-contained and more likely to seek interaction with others, whether it's their feline housemate or the human type.
posted by lemniskate at 7:24 PM on January 6, 2011

Two are totally better. They play with each other, cuddle, and are super cute together. My cats are sisters/littermates. I live in a large-ish one bedroom apartment and they are fine. They don't go outside, but they love looking out the window.
posted by apricot at 7:25 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get two. Gender doesn't really matter, nor does family relationship. Just remember to spay/neuter them. (Really: my two girls were two years apart in age and not related but they got along incredibly well; now my 16 year old female gets along very well with her much younger boyfriend.)

I've found that 2 cats are only slightly more work (litter box cleaning) than one cat; three cats, however, is too many: too much work! Also: boys seem to have stinkier poo than girls, though YMMV.

Vet bills, however, do not follow that same rule: two is twice as expensive as one.

Having two, though, eases the loneliness and boredom that can come from being indoors 24/7.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 7:28 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two. They keep each other company and are better than TV sometimes. In my experience, littermates are fine as whatever gender pairing.

Two cats aren't really that much more expensive than one -- you really only notice the cost when it's time to go to the vet. At home, you'll want an extra litterbox and that's about it. Now, moving to three cats... that's when the difficulty curve takes a jump.
posted by Wossname at 7:29 PM on January 6, 2011

2 cats are better. Getting sibling kittens makes the adjustment easier than unrelated cats, and there can be problems integrating a new cat or kitten with cats you already have. Starting with sibling kittens is the perfect way to go, twice the fun! But be ready for a little chaos around the house and mischief until they grow into older cats. Good luck with your new little guys. You will of course spay and neuter so gender is not an issue.
posted by mermayd at 7:30 PM on January 6, 2011

I have 2 cats, M/F. I got the female first and she was pretty depressed because I worked long hours, so you should bear that in mind. When I got the 2nd cat, about 8 months later, I knew I wanted a male that was close in age. Fortunately, the lone male available at the shelter that fit the bill worked out perfectly. I've heard siblings of either gender are a good choice. The only negatives I've heard are about having 2 unrelated females, as they tend to get a bit more feisty with each other.

I lived in a small NYC share for most of the time and now live in a 750 sq. foot apartment. They were/are fine with both of those. In the past year they'e moved 5 times, twice out of state and lived in everything from a big house with a backyard to a hotel room to a single bedroom for extended periods of time and behaved normally.

They took approximately a week to get along and now 10 years later, are either lovers, acquaintances, strangers or siblings depending on the time of day, their moods, the seasons, etc.
posted by nikitabot at 7:32 PM on January 6, 2011

Two neutered males here. Awesome. I got one 4 years before the other, and I think he's much happier with a buddy.

My dad has a neutered male and a spayed female. Oil and water. My two spent some time with a spayed female, and they hated each others guts. I wouldn't mix genders unless perhaps they're siblings.
posted by desjardins at 7:33 PM on January 6, 2011

My wife and I adopted a couple of littermates as kittens a couple of years ago. In hindsight, I cannot imagine having gotten only one. Strictly in terms of your own self-interest, consider this: Kittens need to play, and if you've got one with no feline playmate, you take that role. All. The Time.

One of the two also bonded with our old cat, who had been obviously lonely since the death of his buddy.
posted by adamrice at 7:35 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am a strong proponent of two-cat households. You don't need a big house. Last year I lived with my two (indoor only) cats and my husband in a 400 square-foot basement apartment. I think a small space is OK as long as they get enough play time. And if you have two cats, they will often entertain themselves.
posted by 2ghouls at 7:37 PM on January 6, 2011

Two. They will be playmates, cuddle mates, company for each other, will keep each other from getting depressed, and everything else everyone has already said. It's easier if you get litter mates, because they've already bonded and you won't have the hassle of trying to introduce two random cats to each other - which although usually ends up working eventually, its not fool proof. But any two cats that get along are fine, and the gender doesn't matter as long as they both get spayed/neutered.

I had three cats in 600sqft, and although cramped, it was workable. Now I'm in 800sqft and it's totally okay.

Good luck, have fun, and you must be posting pictures when you ask the inevitable next cat question :)
posted by cgg at 7:42 PM on January 6, 2011

IANAC but I think as long as they socialized together while still kittens, any gender pairing should work.

In my experience, two adult girls do not get along well at all and mixed genders get along best, but it probably depends on their socialization as kittens.
posted by shoreline at 7:43 PM on January 6, 2011

After my beloved-but-neurotic only child cat passed, my wife & I decided to go for a pair. We adopted a mother and her kitten, and it's been absolutely awesome. I know people who have adopted both related and unrelated pairs, and it doesn't seem to make a huge difference. We went mother/daughter so that we could get a kitten (my wife had never had one) while still helping to alleviate the overload of older cats in shelters.

I will say that I wasn't *quite* prepared for how much food two young cats consume, vs. my old, lazy, solitary cat. And there is absolutely no more slacking on the litter box! But yeah, it's the best decision we ever made.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 7:44 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had just one, and she was pretty happy. Then we got a second, a male kitten, when the first one was 1 year old. After the initial getting-to-know-you (often rough), they've gotten along great. The male is very needy and he seeks her out to cuddle with. After about 10 years together, we've had a couple of incidents of displaced aggression, but they get over it. No other problems. If I had stopped with just the one female, and never gotten the male, I'm sure she would have been fine because of her personality. But I can't imagine if we've gotten just the male without having another cat - his needy/sweet personality really demanded a feline playmate.
posted by Knowyournuts at 7:45 PM on January 6, 2011

Some friends of ours had to re-home a kitten they'd taken in because it played ALL NIGHT LONG on their bed. Locking it out of the bedroom led to sad, loud kitty noise, also all night long. They couldn't live like that. They had an older cat but it wasn't keeping the kitten busy enough.

The rescue org we work with will not place kittens younger than six months without a companion kitten (or a cat younger than two years old). There are very good reasons for this.

If you are home most of the time and don't need to concentrate on anything ever, it might be OK. Also, if you decide to adopt an older cat, it might be happy by itself. But kittens? Two is definitely better than one. Even our current fosters' mother seems happier when she has some other cat to play with.

There can be additional vet expenses, but these are usually not that bad. Also, if you plan to travel via air with a cat in a carry-on carrier, one is probably easier to do -- but again, in that circumstance, an adult cat may be a better bet.
posted by amtho at 7:45 PM on January 6, 2011

Nthing two. Although my cats, who are littermates, are not particularly affectionate with each other, they obviously appreciate the companionship (they're usually in the same room, sleeping about a foot apart), and will hide together when upset by handymen or whatever. My parents have a pair of brothers who are totally inseparable, and are snuggling together this very instant.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:47 PM on January 6, 2011

They wrestle! And chase each other! And snuggle! And give each other baths!
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:12 PM on January 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

Two is definitely better. They'll be happier, less lonely, more sociable, less bored. Get littermates if you can. A single cat is more likely to be lonely and needy; a pair will amuse each other.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:12 PM on January 6, 2011

Joining the chorus urging you to adopt two kittens--they will be much happier and you will find their antics highly entertaining. (And you will have given two cats a home instead of only one!) But in my experience, at least one should be male (and both neutered, of course). As someone else said above, two female cats tend to be hissy and snarly (although my two girls have settled down to a kind of comfortable rivalry over the years). Have fun with your little furballs!
posted by tully_monster at 8:14 PM on January 6, 2011

In my experience, the FF paring is the most fraught. Females will get along great if they're sisters or mother-daughter, but unrelated females can be very territorial. Males can seem to work out their differences and be, if not buddies, then at least friendly. Male-female pairs can work out well. Several unrelated female pairs I've known have never been more than distantly chilly towards each other. Littermates of any sex will almost always be great companions for each other.
posted by bonehead at 8:15 PM on January 6, 2011

I would get two, but you can find a bonded pair of cats without them being littermates. Kittens are super, super fucking cute, I know, but I would suggest a pair of bonded adult cats. Kittens are really unpredictable, you don't know how they are going to develop into adulthood. I have a lot of experience raising kittens (many litters) and even littermates can get along as kittens and then hate each other when they grow up. Also getting a kitten is like playing cat russian roulette. You don't know if they are going to be the destroy-everything cat, piss-on-everything-you-own cat, I-hate-you-and-I'll-attack-your-hand cat or a really awesome cat. That's why getting an adult cat is better. Plus adult cats are the ones that are usually looked over in favor of the OMGKITTENS! Kittens usually always find homes. Finding homes for kittens is a cake walk, but finding a home for a bonded adult pair is almost impossible.

As far as your other questions, as long as your cats have enough stimulation and clean litter boxes, space doesn't really matter as long as you're not living in a closet. I've had 3 cats in a 700 sq. ft apartment before without a problem. And the sex doesn't matter as long as it's a pair of bonded kitties.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:17 PM on January 6, 2011 [6 favorites]

I feel kind of like the odd person out here, at least in terms of my experiences. When I was a kid, we had an adult male cat, adopted from a shelter, and then some years later we got a foundling male kitten. Both were fixed, of course, but they hated each other. They wouldn't share the same piece of furniture, or the same room if they could help it. The only time I ever saw them work together was when mom got a dog. I guess they settled on an uneasy detente in the face of a common enemy.

Come to think of it, it could have been the foundling's fault. Years later, when I took him and moved in with a friend and his kitten, my cat was something of a bully. I guess there are some cats that just aren't good at sharing....

Having said that, though, I agree with everyone else. My deviant felines aside, every other dual-cat household I've seen seems to work very well.
posted by MShades at 8:22 PM on January 6, 2011

Just wanted to chime in to say that we have two girls (from the same litter) and they're best I don't think there's anything inherently fraught with FF pairs. Some cats will get along, some won't.

But oh, the way these two snuggle!!!
posted by sabotagerabbit at 8:36 PM on January 6, 2011


That said, cats are like Tribbles. Cat ownership is a slippery slope. Once you have one, you end up with two or three!

Rip the band-aid and get two now so they can (hopefully:) grow up friends.
posted by jbenben at 8:39 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Definitely do not get two CALICO unrelated females and expect them to live together peacefully....

Although one of my friends said that if I moved to a new house with them - so that the territory was not perceived as someplace owned by one and invaded by the other - they MIGHT get along better. Rawther an expensive solution methinks.
posted by Leah at 8:40 PM on January 6, 2011

Yup, two. If you can, go for a bonded pair. Our two (siblings, one male, one female, both fixed) chase each other around the house, sleep in a pile, groom each other, birdwatch together, and generally don't seem to care much when we travel. They're also serious lap cats -- nothing like two twelve-pound kitties on your lap simultaneously!

On the other hand, my best friend brought a neutered male longhair tabby kitten to live with her spayed female Siberian cat, unsure whether it'd work out. It totally did. So, it doesn't need to be a bonded pair. But! Older pairs of cats have a harder time getting adopted, so you may consider that, the cuteness of kittens aside.
posted by linettasky at 8:56 PM on January 6, 2011

Two, preferably already bonded.

When my mother died, I took in one of her cats. He and my other boy-cat never got along well (I blame Mom's other cat, who'd taught him that "the way to interact with other cats is to walk up and smack them on the nose with your claws out"). They reached a state of relatively peaceful co-existence, but were never friends.

Our current cats are a mother-daughter pair we adopted from the shelter two years ago. WOW, does it make a difference to have cats who like each other. They snuggle together, play together, bath each other — it's great. About once a day I find myself with a big goofy grin on my face saying "how did we luck out to get these two?"
posted by Lexica at 9:45 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a mother-daughter pair too. Before that I had three cats, two of whom were brother & sister, with an adopted stray added a year later. One by one they all died aged 14, 15 and 20, and the last cat who was left seemed lonely, but I felt he was too old and set in his ways (18 at the time) to bring in a new cat. After he died I adopted my current two cats.

Kittens have lots of energy, in short bursts when they're not asleep. It's much easier for you if they expend that energy wrestling or chasing each other, rather than a sole kitten taking it out on your furniture or your leg. Of course, this also means you will come in and find both kittens have climbed the curtains and can't get down, but usually two cats = double the fun rather than double the trouble.
posted by essexjan at 2:25 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

All cats are f'ed up in some way. Having 2 increases the likelihood that at least one of them is f'ed up in a way that's entertaining and endearing, rather than annoying.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 3:56 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

i have one who used to peacefully (not happily) co-habitate with her family, and later (happily) with an unrelated male. once that male passed on, she lived alone for five years. in the space of that five years, she became supremely independent/antisocial.

now she hates the other two i adopted.

those two adore each other, even though of different genders and totally unrelated, and one being blind. in fact, they bonded closely within two days of meeting. this one? not at all.

conclusion: it depends upon the cats you end up with, and their experiences in life.
posted by patricking at 4:24 AM on January 7, 2011

Some cats love other cats, some hate them, you have no real way of knowing in advance, but cats who grow up together generally get along better than those introduced later in life. Same-sex cat pairs tend to work better (but the individual cats' personalities are more important than their genders), unlike dogs. Remember that the golden litterbox rule is one per cat plus one, so one cat needs two litterboxes, two cats need three litterboxes.
posted by biscotti at 4:30 AM on January 7, 2011

I got a pair of female littermates when I got my cats. I'd seen the difference between one dog and two in terms of socialization and the social pressure on the human, so I figured two cats would be better, and I figured littermates would be easier in terms of adjustment to each other. (the longest my two sibling-cats have been apart was when they were in different cages when they stayed at the vet to get spayed.) A few years later I accidentally ended up with a third cat, and it took the upheaval of moving across the country to get one of the older cats to stop randomly considering the new cat as prey.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:37 AM on January 7, 2011

two! I have a brother/sister pair and they seem much happier than the single cats I've had. They keep each other good company and it's quite entertaining.
posted by min at 4:51 AM on January 7, 2011

Joining the chorus of "Get two!"...I got a brother/sister pair about a year and a half ago, and they're a joy (but don't tell them that). They keep each other company, they play, they snuggle, and they're far more amusing together than apart. The only caveat is that they're also double the mischief. They get into the craziest stuff, and I'm convinced they egg each other on to do it. I often feel like the mom in The Sixth Sense--I'm constantly turning around and finding randomly open cabinets in my kitchen. I'm looking forward to them growing a bit older (they're about two years old now) and slowing down.
posted by litnerd at 5:09 AM on January 7, 2011

They will be playmates, cuddle mates, company for each other,

I'll be another dissenting voice. We adopted two male cats about 15 months ago at the same time. It was pure joy for about two weeks, and then the older one decided that he owned the whole apartment and wouldn't let the younger one out from under the bed. Over a year later (which included a significant amount of destroyed furniture, personal injury, and vet bills due to stress-related cat problems) and they STILL aren't the cuddly, playful best friends we thought they would be. In fact, they probably never will be. They are finally tolerating each other due to careful administration of Prozac to the bully cat.

Knowing what I know now, I would probably still try two cats again, but I'm not sure what I could do differently to avoid the strife. A bonded pair is probably your best bet. (As an aside, it was really a shame when we went to get our little guys - the one we wanted most had a brother that someone else adopted and apparently they were totally best buddies). We also went into this being first-time cat owners and were maybe unprepared for some of the more challenging aspects.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:12 AM on January 7, 2011

I've had one, I now have two. Both situations worked out just fine. My single cat had only me to hang out with, so he was very social with me. If I went into the kitchen, he'd come too. If I went into the bedroom, he'd follow. I'm on the couch reading, he's draped across the back, or curled up behind my knees. With the two, they hang out with each other, and as mentioned above, they play chase and wrestle, and carry on.

In summation, either one will be good for your life.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:09 AM on January 7, 2011

One. If you only want one cat, only get one cat.
Granted, we adopted our cat when she was about 1-1.5 yr old, and I could see how a small kitten could benefit from another small kitten to entertain it, but as the cat gets older that stops being a plus (though it's not a minus, just doesn't matter).
posted by aimedwander at 6:33 AM on January 7, 2011

One more datapoint: we got two as kittens. They are unrelated, but were in the same cage, so they may have bonded. One male, one female, both fixed. Two years later, they get along great.

They still demand lots of attention, but they are able to entertain themselves (and us). The rescue org insisted that kittens be adopted in pairs and it was the right thing for us.
posted by jindc at 7:41 AM on January 7, 2011

I just want to echo what MaryDellamorte said about getting a pair of bonded adult cats! At my local vet/SPCA, there are always a few pairs of bonded adults that they have a hard time adopting out even though they are super cute. And whereas you may have some control over how a puppy's personality develops, kittens are pretty unpredictable. Getting adult cats means that you'll be able to get a better feel for the cats' personality before you become their human slave.
posted by sk932 at 7:57 AM on January 7, 2011

I got 2 cats (1 male, 1 female) a few years ago when they were very small kittens. They were play/fight mates for the first year, but now they interact maybe once a month. Both totally ignore the new kitten as though she didn't exist.

As far as sex, this is purely anecdotal: The 2 males I've had were laid back, friendly, and docile. The 2 females I've had have been destructive hellions. I suspect this is purely luck of the draw, though.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:37 AM on January 7, 2011

2 is great, especially if you or someone else is not going to be around all the time to play with them. Kittens need attention / play, and they'll get it in spades if there are 2 kittens (they may grow apart / be more solitary as they get older. But kittens generally play).

Seconding LOLAttorney though that 3 cats is a lot! I've had 1, 2, and 3 at various times and 1-2 is similar, while 3 was like OMGsomanycats.

While similar age is ideal it's not a requirement, but if you have 0 cats you might as well (however, adding a kitten or adult cat to an existing adult cat is perfectly doable).
posted by wildcrdj at 4:50 PM on January 7, 2011

Thanks everyone! Looks like I'll be getting two cats!
posted by vegetable100% at 8:42 AM on January 8, 2011

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