October 25, 2020 5:02 PM   Subscribe

I've been thinking a lot about getting a cat lately. I can't decide between one cat or two. Complication: small apartment.

My previous questions will show that the idea of getting a cat has been weighing on my mind for a while now, although actually it's something I've been thinking about/hankering after for at least 6 years. Right now as I am working from home it seems like a good idea to get a cat as I'd be spending lots more time at home to get to know the cat etc. But I am doing the usual overthinking thing and coming at it from lots of angles before I take the leap because I am an anxious person who likes to be prepared for all kinds of eventualities.

Although my initial thinking has been around getting one cat, and my apartment is small, I have recently been investigating the idea of getting a bonded pair of adult cats to keep each other company in case I have to leave the country for a while to handle family affairs abroad. While I'm mostly at home, I do occasionally travel overnight or for weekends. (I'd get a cat sitter too, of course, but I'd feel bad about leaving a solitary cat lonely at home.)

Is it just a bad idea to consider getting two cats given that my apartment is quite small? Would the benefit of the two keeping each other company outweigh the disadvantages of living in a small apartment? My main concern is space and whether it's just mad to have two cats within the confines of a 450 sq. ft apartment. (Where would I put the litter boxes? etc.) I'd need to look carefully at finances too but anything else I should consider?

I'm more than happy to play with the cats and spend time with them and spend money on indoor environment enrichment, within reason and given space and finance constraints.
posted by unicorn chaser to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I had two cats in a similarly a sized apartment. They were adults and they seemed to be just fine. The litter box went in the bathroom.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:16 PM on October 25, 2020 [6 favorites]

I think getting a pair of cats, adults or kittens, is a great idea. One thing to remember is that cats can use parts of the house that you can't, for example, you only sleep on top of the bed, but the cats can sleep and play on top of or under the bed (or table, or chair, or whatever).

I have four cats in a relatively small house and they get along fine. The litterboxes are all in the bathroom.
posted by mogget at 5:25 PM on October 25, 2020 [9 favorites]

My cat seems so much happier now that he has a friend. They chase each other, giving them lots of exercise. They often sleep next to each other. I think it's good for them. On the other hand, I've had cats that didn't get along at all (two were sisters!) so you need to make sure they do.
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:40 PM on October 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

I work at an animal shelter. Please get two cats. Your apartment is plenty big enough for two cats. There are so many homeless cats in shelters all over the country, and oftentimes cats get euthanized for lack of space. Giving a home to two cats would be a life-saving act of kindness. There are lots of cats that get admitted together from the same home. Ask the shelter staff to direct you to one of these pairs, or look on the shelter's website where they list the adoptable animals.
posted by alex1965 at 5:57 PM on October 25, 2020 [11 favorites]

I think you should get a bonded pair. For a cat, the main downside of having other cats with them in a small space is that they can be territorial and need space away from each other. If they like each other, that's not as much of a problem.

The main downside for you will be the litterbox situation. I've had two cats with one litterbox, even though I know that the standard advice would be to have three. I mitigated that problem by being very, very good about cleaning the box - I kept in the bathroom and cleaned it whenever I used the bathroom, if one of them had used it. So it got scooped multiple times a day. (I have a litter genie so this didn't involve much faffing about with bags.) I can't say it's what you should do, but it can work out. Two litterboxes would probably be fine.

And it's really nice when a bonded pair can find a home together.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:59 PM on October 25, 2020 [9 favorites]

Bonded isn't always better. I knew a "bonded" pair of cats where the one cat terrorized the other so hard that the smaller, more anxious cat had to be coaxed to eat. Every. Single. Meal.

Get two foster cats and see how they settle in together.
posted by aniola at 6:05 PM on October 25, 2020

I think either would be fine. I've had cats in the past and now I catsit a lot, and even though I know that a lot of people recommend cats in pairs, I have seen zero signs that the single cats are any less happy than those in pairs. Since I think you're supposed to have a litter box per cat (or even one box per cat plus one extra), I think I'd personally go with one cat in a tiny apartment.
posted by pinochiette at 7:08 PM on October 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've had one, two, and three. I don't recommend three unless you like scooping litter and want to redecorate with scratching posts. Two depends on whether one is bullying the other or not (even if they're bonded, meaning they consider themselves to be members of a family group and are usually siblings, dominance can be an issue) or, more commonly, whether they leave each other icily alone ninety nine percent of the time.

One is just fine, especially if you keep it entertained. You'll get a lot of pressure from people who really really want to place the far-too-many cats that need homes, and I don't blame them, but you don't need two.
posted by Peach at 7:13 PM on October 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Two fixed males are a good combination. Females are more territorial than males. Ask at the shelter if each one is good with other cats.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 7:21 PM on October 25, 2020

I've had anywhere between 1-4 in my small home, and I say 2 is totally doable. You can make it work with one litter box for sure, especially now that you're home a lot. If you're pressed for space, inside the shower/tub is a good spot. (That's what we do.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:40 PM on October 25, 2020

Two is a perfect number for a small space, especially if you're willing to invest in vertical space (cat tree or two, maybe place furniture so they can get on top of the fridge or on a bookcase). My local shelter has a cat group room and staff who are always happy to recommend cata that get along well in that situation, even if they didn't come in as a pair.

Also, I have lived with cats in small spaces for years and only bought this funky side table litter box holder at the start of the pandemic and BOY has my life changed for the better. We actually have two boxes for our two cats, but this one doubles as furniture and honestly as long as I clean it regularly I have not noticed a smell.
posted by theweasel at 7:54 PM on October 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

I looked at your last question and since you're worried about future travel/relocation, I'd go for one-- cat sitting and cat transport will be easier.
posted by kingdead at 9:53 PM on October 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

In my experience, (I’ve had five cats), two cats at a time is usually better than one. They keep each other company and play together and basically feel happier. The extra work for you (litterbox, feeding them, etc) is meowr-ginal, and if cats have a companion they’ll probably be better behaved. One cat can actually be more trouble than two!!
posted by banishedimmortal at 2:03 AM on October 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm really surprised by the answers. My experience is that while having two cats is good if they get along, having two cats who don't get along is awful.

My advice would be to get just one. Make sure that your cat has a few different places to spend time - eg. somewhere up high, somewhere it can look out a window, somewhere it can hide like under a bed or in a wardrobe. They sleep a lot and also just like interesting places to chill.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 2:18 AM on October 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

The concern about two cats not getting along would be mitigated by working with a shelter/rescue that know the two cats in question do get along. Two cats are better than one. I had two cats, and they were very happy. Now I have only one, but I also have 3 dogs that she gets along with and hangs out with.

Transporting and cat sitting for two cats is not any harder than one. And they do entertain each other.
posted by rich at 4:51 AM on October 26, 2020

My first two cats bonded within a day and were best buddies until the end. My 3rd cat was a street rescue foisted on me by the universe only 2 weeks after cat #1 had died. I was able to get cat #2 & 3 to coexist peacefully-ish, but when cat #2 had to be put to sleep a few months later (pancreatitis), cat #3 was clearly much happier being the solo cat, and even though I'd really love to be a 2-cat household again, it's not worth the risk to cat #3's mental/physical health.

So, I think it's fine to have just one cat if that will be easier for your travel issues, as long as you find a cat that already doesn't like other cats. They're definitely out there, and may be the reason the cat is being re-homed in the first place.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:24 AM on October 26, 2020

I prefer cats in twos.

But it's hard to know cat dynamics as they are all a little different, and bonded pairing isn't something you really create.

I had three cats in total with a pair of cats who was a bonded pair. After he lost his brother he got depressed and we helped set up a situation where he ended up caretaking a kitten who became a good pal. But, after the older guy passed, the younger one isn't too keen on other cats, and is fairly skittish. So i don't think introducing a different cat will go over as well. He's not lonely or acting depressed after the loss at all.

We also have a cat that just wants to be an only cat. Our MIL lives with us for awhile and he because a totally different more affectionate cat when in the room with her by himself for days at a time. He couldn't care less about the other cat and doesn't interact with them much. Like really he just wants a quiet human a nice bed and food. He's a simplistic guy.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:33 AM on October 26, 2020

If you're getting kittens, two is a really good idea. The last batch we got was an unrelated pair of agemates, and they're not Bestest Friends (one of them bonded to *me* and the other fell in love with our six-year-old male) but they have similar amounts of energy and play pounce with each other all night instead of terrorizing my wife's toes or the aforementioned older cat.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:56 AM on October 26, 2020

Why don't you foster and see how it goes first? Your anxiety may be really soothed if see how cats operate in your space.
posted by RajahKing at 7:53 AM on October 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

There are plenty of bonded pairs that need to be adopted. I see you are not in NYC, but these two just popped up in my FB feed.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:43 AM on October 26, 2020

I'd go for two cats, and work with the shelter on picking a chill bonded pair. There are a lot of adult pairs who are great but have a hard time finding a home because so many people want kittens, so I think if you're up for a pair of adult cats that would be amazing for you and for them. I had two cats in a studio apartment that wasn't big enough for me to have a couch (okay, it would have been if I'd gotten rid of most of my books, but you get my point...) and they were fine.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:52 AM on October 26, 2020

Based on your situation, I say go for it.

Younger female cats are (I'm told) more apt to bond with other cats than older female cats are.

In the opinion of TV personality and apparently-legit cat expert Jackson Galaxy, cats should live with other cats.

I made *3* cats work in an apartment the same size, or smaller than, yours—but it WAS problematic. Two is a good number.

Having someone you know check in on them once every few days while you're away will likely be perfectly feasible as long as you don't have, like, more than 4 cats. Medical and personality factors notwithstanding, we have on average left our cats alone with no human visitors for up to about 4-5 days with no issues, but we've always had more than one cat, which I suspect helps, even if the cats seem merely tolerant of each other.

My main note of caution would definitely be to echo what those above have said about "work with the shelter"—meaning also, be willing to be selective about WHICH shelter you adopt them from, in case a shelter seems unable to give you enough information.

In fact, because you said:
But I am doing the usual overthinking thing and coming at it from lots of angles before I take the leap because I am an anxious person who likes to be prepared for all kinds of eventualities.
…a good first step might be to examine the application form PDFs for several shelters within about an hour's travel. Some of those applications will probably reassure you by their incredible thoroughness; others may be so perfunctory as to be red flags.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:16 AM on October 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Two in 450 square feet will be fine, as long as you get them with the clear understanding from the source that they're pals that get along well. You'll definitely find pairs at shelters both young and old where they are VERY much a pair, and the shelter is eager or even insistent that they be placed together.

I had four in a 600 square foot apartment for a few months. The litter box situation was a challenge, but manageable. Otherwise it was NBD, but of course these were cats who knew each other going in, and ranged from besties to comfortable tolerance.
posted by wotsac at 11:35 AM on October 26, 2020

You'll definitely find pairs at shelters both young and old where they are VERY much a pair, and the shelter is eager or even insistent that they be placed together.

Yes, this is key. My current cat was one-half of a pair that traveled from an out-of-state shelter, and he went through one home with his buddy before they realized that these two didn't really want to hang out. I've found that pairs are still very interested in their human though. As the source of food and play and affection, you'll still be a key part of their lives.

You can definitely maximize the vertical space in your apartment to give your cats more choices on where to spend their time. Floating shelves, cat trees, window hammocks. Once they acclimate to your space, it will become their space.
posted by gladly at 2:01 PM on October 26, 2020

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