Should I get two cats?
June 25, 2012 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I want to get two cats (or kittens). I have two small boys. Should I or not?

If I do, should I get more older cats? Male or female? What kind of cats are recommended? I really like cats that snuggle with you lol! You recommendations please.

ps. my boys are 6 and 2 1/2.
posted by alshain to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total)
I would suggest renting a cat first. Visit shelters and pet stores, cat-sit for friends, foster one for a few weeks while its new home is getting figured out. You never know about kids and allergies, and having to give a cat away because it makes someone sick is heartbreaking for all involved.

I have 2 boys myself, they're 16 and 18 now and grew up with a dog and, for a time, 2 cats. They both love animals very much, especially my older son who has some anxiety issues -- our sweet old dog is the best therapy ever invented.
posted by headnsouth at 7:37 AM on June 25, 2012

I had cats growing up from birth. My brother is four years older than me. We always had Siamese, for what it's worth. Ours snuggled like their life depended on it.

I would definitely not get older cats unless they are used to young kids.

I would also make sure that your kids know to show the cats respect and care - animals are great for teaching kids empathy if done right.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:40 AM on June 25, 2012

There's no way to know how the personality of a cat is going to turn out when they're just kittens. It's hard to give up the wonderful kitten period of life, but if you want to be sure they are a snuggler or a person-cat, you might want to give more weight to getting an older cat, where the shelter will know their personality. And often, shelter's have bonded pairs of cats that have lived together all their lives, and that they really want to go to a home together.

All my male cats have been far, far clingier cuddlers than the females (who have been far, far, occasionally terrifyingly smarter), but my data pool is too small to know if this holds true.
posted by instead of three wishes at 7:43 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would suggest getting adult cats from a good shelter - one that either fosters its cats out in individual homes or keeps them in kitty condos (not cages). With fostered cats, one can get a much better idea of the individual temperament as well as whether the cat is good with kids (and other pets).

Find a shelter that fosters, ask for one that has been raised/fostered with kids, and a bonus is if the shelter does a "Meet your Match" temperament test (for both you and the cats). A bonded pair of adults or pair of compatible adults might be the best for you.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:48 AM on June 25, 2012

In my experience males tend to be more affectionate as well. I do think you can get a great idea of personality even when they're young, though. My adult cats behave exactly as they did in the hour we spent getting to know them at the shelter when they were 3 months old. They each have very distinct personality traits that have carried over as they've grown up.
posted by something something at 7:49 AM on June 25, 2012

It really depends on the kids. My 2-year old loves animals and actually treats them far more gently than her 7-year old sister.

We have a 16-year-old cat who was already 9 years old by the time the first child came along, so she wants nothing to do with them. I think that kittens, or adult cats that have been around kids, would be a good idea. A cat that is not used to children will probably just spend a lot of time hiding.

My male cats have been less intelligent but cuddly. My female cats have been more aloof, but better hunters.

Another suggestion -- Please don't get your cat declawed. At first it may poke your kids with its claws, but eventually cats and kids reach a truce. The kids learn how to handle the cat, the cat learns that a swat with claws retracted deters curious kids when it wants to be left alone.
posted by Ostara at 7:54 AM on June 25, 2012

I'd try out for slightly older cats from a shelter, there are a lot of 1 year old or younger cats looking for a home. You can take your sons in to hug and cuddle with the cats to find which ones get along and like being snuggled , and to check that your sons don't have allergies before you take the cats home.

I'd avoid kittens as very delicate and a 2 1/2 year old might have all the best intentions in the world they can be a little rough on kittens. All my male cats have been snugglers, thick as bricks, but great for hugging.
posted by wwax at 7:57 AM on June 25, 2012

I think a dog (or two - one each) is better for small boys, and then cats or kittens once they are older.
posted by meepmeow at 7:58 AM on June 25, 2012

Yes, you should. And you should get them from a shelter or foster group. Under no circumstances should you purchase a cat or kitten from a pet store.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:04 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

just anecdotal.. I've had one male cat and two female cats. All raised from kittens.

My experience has been the complete opposite of everyone elses. My male cat was aloof and my two female cats are very clingy.

Most shelters have notes about cats who aren't kid friendly or other-pet friendly.. and you can ask the staff how they behave.

Beware: What might seem like an incredibly calm, clingy kitten might turn out to be a lovely but energetic kitten once they get over the cold you didn't know they had.
posted by royalsong at 8:25 AM on June 25, 2012

nthing the cuddle factor on male cats. We've had males & females & the males are significantly more interactive - we call them cat-dogs, since they fetch, come when you call them, etc. Females have their own mysterious agendas & aren't nearly as affectionate as males, in our experience.
posted by yoga at 8:27 AM on June 25, 2012

I got my cats from the humane society when they were older kittens (4 months and 8 months) and they'd had time to find their personalities. Both are male; one is smart and needy, the other is lazy and cuddly (but only when he wants to be!).

I would avoid Siamese - they are very demanding and loud cats and you probably have enough noise in your life with two boys. I would also avoid long haired cats as you probably have enough messiness in your household without lots of cat hair being added to it. Mine are some indeterminate mix, but they are both solid black, and every black cat I've ever encountered was super-friendly for some reason. All the orange cats I've met have been aloof jerks.
posted by desjardins at 8:34 AM on June 25, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all so much!

So the question remains, one or two cats?
posted by alshain at 8:35 AM on June 25, 2012

At least two. They'll keep each other company and play together if they like each other (this is another good reason to get a pair who have already lived together for some time whose personalities and relationship are known). Personally, I like having three rather than two. If you have two, sometimes the cats' reaction to each other is "Oh. It's you again," but if you have three, they can form factions and their shifting allegiances cause them to interact with each other in different ways. But three is a lot for some people. Two, truly, is not much more trouble than one.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:43 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you can handle it, two cats, because they will keep each other company when you are not around. And, if you get cats who are more affectionate/not loners, that can be important.
posted by instead of three wishes at 8:44 AM on June 25, 2012

If you can take two, do it. It's often harder to adopt out cats who are bonded and need to stay together, so if you can provide a good home for a bonded pair, you're being a mensch.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:00 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd recommend two. One cat will get lonely and bored, and with two, you really learn the differences in personalities. It's a better adventure.
posted by rocketman at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2012

Two, absolutely, preferably litter mates. They will entertain each other and be so much happier.
posted by LarryC at 9:11 AM on June 25, 2012

Absolutely get two cats. We adopted a brother and sister and it's wonderful. When we're out of the house, they amuse each other. When we're around, they do whatever they feel like. Our little boy loves to cuddle and have his tummy rubbed. He could go for hours. Our little girl is more aloof, but when she's in a mood it's like a reward to get to pet her. Neither of our kitties likes being held.

We've had ours since they were kittens and their personalities have been pretty much fixed. Eartha is our alpha kitty and she bullies her brother a bit. She bops him on the head if she doesn't feel like Malcolm is giving her proper deference at the food plate. She's a snowshoe (half-Siamese), she has the sweetest meow, and she trills which is the cutest thing ever. Malcolm is all black, but he must have Siamese in him too, because his meow is really loud, and kind of mechanical. (He says, "mek" a lot).

At any rate two, bonded cats is the way to go. It's lovely at the end of the day, when we're all in bed for "Pride Time" and the two of them are grooming each other.

Kitty Love!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:17 AM on June 25, 2012

I would avoid Siamese - they are very demanding and loud cats

Just to stick up for Siamese for a mo - they are vocal (but I've seen it as a feature, not a bug to be able to have a conversation with a cat), but no more demanding in my experience than other cats I've had. They are social.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:33 AM on June 25, 2012

I grew up with three cats, a Siamese cat and two adopted strays. It was nice for them to have company, and it was hilarious for us to watch their bizarre, occasional kitty wars.

One of the strays, and the Siamese, were adopted as kittens. These cats grew up to be much more comfortable and cuddly than the stray we adopted as an adult cat. He would occasionally allow us to pet him, but for the most part treated us as necessary evils that he had to tolerate in exchange for free food. The other two were much more people-oriented, loving to curl up and sleep cuddled against us.

A note about the Siamese - ours used to vocalise all the time, particularly when you were on the phone and she thought you were talking to her. (All of my teenage phone conversations were conducted against a background of inquisitive yowling.) She was also very demanding of our attention generally. The other cuddly cat was a bit more chill.
posted by Ziggy500 at 9:40 AM on June 25, 2012

Please keep in mind the veterinary expenses. Call a vet in your area to find out what they recommend for annual care, and consider how you will handle a more serious illness that could require hundreds or thousands of dollars in treatment. As someone who has worked in emergency veterinary medicine, I know how heartbreaking it can be when a family must euthanize a beloved pet because they can't afford life saving or prolonging medical care.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:45 AM on June 25, 2012

Two cats are always better. Try to get cats from a shelter who are litter mates, or have been together a while and like each other. Cats and kids are great together, I grew up with them from birth, so did my kids. We all love kitties, and they add so much to your family life.
posted by mermayd at 10:11 AM on June 25, 2012

Firstly, yes, two cats are (in my opinion) always better than one. Look for shelter/rescue cats described as "bonded pairs"...often this means littermates raised together, but it can also be a mother and child, or even two unrelated cats that have nonetheless become inseparable. Not only does adopting 2 cats mean 2 fewer cats are homeless or stuck in an overcrowded shelter, but it also tends to mean you're getting kitties with better "feline social skills" (as in, more likely to be able to share and less likely to be bitey, etc.). Of course there's nothing wrong with "only cats" (some cats simply prefer to be THE only feline within shouting distance) but in a household with children, you're probably much better off with cats more accustomed to group living.

Secondly, with young children it's probably best to adopt young-adult cats, rather than tiny kittens (who are more fragile and easy to lose, accidentally let out, etc.) or elderly adult cats (who are more likely to find small children annoying due to the noise and chaos factor). This is especially true if you want a particular personality in your cat(s). I wouldn't base the decision on gender or coat pattern or anything like that, as there are no hard and fast rules. The most important thing in your situation, it seems, is that you and the kidlets have the opportunity to meet and interact with potential cats before actually adopting them.

Finally, going back to the question of whether you should adopt cats at all given your kids' ages...honestly I think the primary consideration there is whether *you* are willing and able to monitor your kids' interactions with the cats and make sure they are respectful and that the kids don't try and treat the cat like a toy or doll. The human kids need to know that the cats have their own right to autonomy and that if the cat doesn't want to be petted, this does not mean the cat is "bad" or "mean". Also, be aware that most cats will do whatever they can to *avoid* physical confrontation, so if the cat bites or scratches the kid, there's a 99.5% chance that this is legitimate self-defense (or rough play, e.g., such as that which can occur if humans use their hands as toys for cats to "attack") as opposed to the cat being "aggressive".
posted by aecorwin at 10:21 AM on June 25, 2012

Response by poster: Amazing amazing feedback! Thank you so much all.

Other than Siamese cats, any other recommendations?
posted by alshain at 11:13 AM on June 25, 2012

At least two litterboxes, and with your kids' ages, make sure the cats have somewhere they can go that they can get away from the boys. Even if they're good with little ones, it'll avoid frustrations and possible scratchings if the cats can go hang out somewhere that the kids don't usually go.
posted by lemniskate at 12:23 PM on June 25, 2012

Two cats is so much more fun than one, and not that much more trouble. Many cats came to shelters in pairs, and may adjust better to a new home if their sibling / buddy comes along.

We just adopted a second kitty from a local shelter. He's about 10 months old, plenty of kitten energy left but also big enough to fend for himself against our grumpy older male kitty or our three-year-old (fend for himself = interact when he desires to, but run away if needed).

We adopted the new guy specifically because our grumpy old cat was not too fond of our son. He's still jealous that my wife gives the kid more attention than she gives to him, I guess. We also lost a kitty (grumpy cat's brother) due to medical complications two years ago, and that also threw him for a loop.

All in all we are back to two cats, they have developed an uneasy truce (some hissing and growling from grumpy cat but he tolerates small cat so long as he doesn't get too close) and our son has a kitty that he can actually pet and play with.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:36 PM on June 25, 2012

Good ol' yellow moggies are the best cats! Of course you have to get two--that way the kids don't fight over whose cat it is (even though it's Mom's cat--what she gets is most of the cat care.)
posted by BlueHorse at 10:50 PM on June 25, 2012

I've found this book or similar on cat body language useful for interpreting whether a cat is contented or scared/angry/etc. Unless a cat is sick or in pain, it will rarely bite or scratch you without some warning: ears flattened and tail flicking in annoyance, crouching in a defensive posture, etc. One reason declawing cats is actually dangerous is that it becomes MUCH harder to tell whether a cat hitting you with its paws is playfully swatting at you with its claws sheathed in mock-battle or whether it's actually warning you to back off & leave it alone, and if you don't get the message it can escalate to biting you (cats bites can be VERY serious if infected).

On the other hand, don't freak out if a playful cat nips you without breaking skin or grabs you lightly with his claws in play. Cats play by wrestling with each other like this, so the intent is affection, not harm--but an overexcited cat may still accidentally hurt your tender furless skin, so encourage him to claw/nip at a toy instead, and disengage yourself/stop playtime if he goes for your hand instead. Many people let kittens wrestle their hands because it's cute, but it's less harmless when the adult cat still thinks hands or ankles are a fun toy for mauling. You want a cat well-socialized with humans and other cats, who as a kitten stayed with its littermates long enough to learn that real bites hurt!

A good way to keep small children and cats together (which is totally workable!) is to ensure the cat has places to escape out of the kids' reach when she's had enough attention for one day: a tall bookcase, a separate room, and/or a sturdy wall shelf. Cats like high places, and a cat who feels cornered is more likely to lash out than one who has an escape route.

Good luck! I hope you find the mellow lapkitties of your kids' dreams.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:52 AM on June 26, 2012

All the orange cats I've met have been aloof jerks.

And all my sweetest, cuddliest cats have been orange! It really depends on the particular cat's personality.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:02 AM on June 26, 2012

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