Will I be a third wheel if I adopt two cats?
July 7, 2024 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I am a single lady, hoping to become a single cat lady. I am debating between adopting one cat or two cats. Which should I choose?

I have not decided yet whether I will adopt a kitten(s) or adult cat(s). I might just wait to decide until I go to the shelter and see then. Or maybe your answers to this question will sway me in some way.

I am thinking it might be better to get two cats so that they can take care of one another. I've never had two, but I see in videos online that they sometimes love to cuddle and groom one another (I would adopt an already bonded pair if I were to get two). I don't want to worry about my cat getting lonely when I leave it home alone, so that's especially why I want two. And I just think generally it probably makes them happier to have company of their own species.

But what if they only want to cuddle with one another and not me? That would make me sad. What have your experiences with having 1 vs 2 cats been?
posted by justsomebody to Pets & Animals (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would 100% get two cats, especially if you get kittens!
posted by burntflowers at 12:18 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]

Lots of shelters have cats that are already bonded from having lived together in their previous home (before they were surrendered). Sometimes, you can get a pair of bonded cats for the price of a single cat.

All of which is to say, yes -- you should absolutely get two cats. You'd be saving two lives instead of one. Oh, and don't worry about them ignoring you while they snuggle with each other. They'll have enough love to go around.

PS I speak as a life-long owner of many cats, and only once did I have a single cat without companions.
posted by alex1965 at 12:22 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]

Another vote for two cats. We have two cats, and I just spent the past 20 minutes with one of them lying on her back in my lap for tummy rubs.
posted by heatherlogan at 12:27 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]

We have had one cat and two cats and I don't think they minded either way. They don't mind being solitary, and once in a while they make friends in a non-attached way. Go to the shelter and see who says, "I am a nice cat" to you.
posted by shadygrove at 12:32 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]

Two cats is great - they have someone to bother who is not you, but you also have twice the likelihood that one of them wants to snuggle when you do. And sometimes you get the bonus of double-cat snuggles. 12/10, do recommend.
posted by past unusual at 12:41 PM on July 7 [13 favorites]

I would totally go for a bonded pair from a shelter or rescue. Pairs are harder to find homes for, and I envy people who get to watch their cats groom or cuddle.

There are people-oriented cats and cat-oriented cats, but that’s really a different scale than "do these two cats get along." Some cats who do not like other cats do not care for human attention either. Some bonded pairs love people, or at least one of them does. The rescue should be able to provide background on personalities, though in the stress of a foster/shelter situation they don’t always show at their best.
posted by kite at 12:43 PM on July 7

But what if they only want to cuddle with one another and not me?

I have two dogs. They never cuddle with each other.

What they do do:
-Cuddle by themselves separately but still not with me (rude)
-Fight over who gets to cuddle with me
-Require me to step in as a referee to their bickering

They always make me laugh.

So I think no matter what the dynamic between the three of you, inviting two animals into your home is sure to be entertaining, at least.
posted by phunniemee at 12:47 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]

Another vote for two cats - my current pair - a brother and sister - play and cuddle and fight all the time - and cuddle with me separately and together. They are much happier because they have playmates. They came from a rescue as a bonded pair. I've almost always had two or more cats at a time - the only time we've had one was when one of a bonded pair died first.
posted by leslies at 12:51 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]

Definitely get two cats! I adopted a pair of sibling kittens and they are now 8 years old. Sometimes the clouds part, the stars align, angels sing, and I get to have two purring cats on my lap. They also cuddle together, chase each other around the house, tussle, and completely ignore each other. Their personalities are different and it's fun to see them interact.
posted by esoterrica at 12:54 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you so much for your answers already! They made me laugh! Could I also ask:

Is it a lot of extra work to have 2 cats? Is it manageable as a single person?
posted by justsomebody at 1:02 PM on July 7

The big jump in work is from no cats to 1 cat. I have had 1 cat, and 2 cats, and having 2 isn't any more work, though I imagine if they were tricky to manage or had health issues more time would be required.
posted by esoterrica at 1:06 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]

I have 2 cats, littermates that I adopted as adults. They love each other, and they are super affectionate with me -- over the years we've had to develop a system for getting them both on my lap at once. Based on my experience with these 2 and other cats I have had, cat cuddlyness is not based on the number of cats but on the individual cat's personality (and the temperature of the room -- they are heat-seeking missiles).

If you have 2 instead of one you will have to scoop litterboxes a bit more, and vacuum a bit more, but it's nothing a single person can't handle, and you'll be glad they have each other if you plan to be gone all night.
posted by JanetLand at 1:11 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]

Double the cats means double the bills. Can you afford this? Senior pets can rack up the vet bills.
posted by shock muppet at 1:22 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]

I have this on hard mode - 4 feral kittens dropped on my doorstep in lockdown that took 6 months to tame and by that time I was attached. They're littermates and happily tussle and groom each other and occasionally cuddle. The biggest trigger of competitive grooming and tussles? "You have monopolised The Human for long enough, I'll kick you if necessary to get my own Human Cuddles!"

In some ways they're less work than one cat because they provide a lot of their own playtime - they appreciate my efforts, but they're perfectly happy chasing a brother's tail if a human-operated toy isn't available. And the only areas in which they're more work than one cat:
- litter scooping and vacuuming
- buying in bulk and storing food and litter
- when one catches something infectious and they all have it, taking all four to the vet is an expensive pain (pinkeye, gastric infection, calicivirus)

All of the above is very much manageable with 2. With 4, a bit of a stretch when I don't have help.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 1:25 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]

Seconding that before you get two ask around what people’s vet bills for cats are in the area. Private equity is snapping up veterinary practices in the US and making basic care significantly more expensive without passing on the increased profit to the actual vets. Our annual wellness with baseline vaccines this year for our pet was 300% of the cost it was a few years ago for a total of over $750. Imagine paying that twice.
posted by donut_princess at 1:34 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]

If the cats need to be on strictly separate diets, managing feeding can be an extra challenge, but not totally unmanageable. We have two with different diets due to different health issues. We have to feed them in different locations and monitor them to make sure they're not eating each other's food. They both tend toward obesity if left to their own devices, so they can't free-feed.

Also yeah, double the vet bills.

One of our current cats came to us originally as a pair from the same household. It turned out that they barely tolerated each other, and eventually one tried to kill the other one. Cats behave differently in a shelter than they do once they're settled into a permanent situation, and shelters will suggest the most optimistic scenario because they really need to place cats as quickly as possible.

All this is to say, don't assume cats are bonded because they came from the same household or because the shelter said so. Ask for more details and try to observe the cats with each other to see if they really seem to be bonded.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:38 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]

You could look into foster-to-adopt for a shelter. That way you could get to know the cats better and then adopt a pair that really is bonded.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:41 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]

I am a single lady who adopted two young adult cats having never owned a cat before. They each bonded to me quickly and deeply. One of the two is extremely cuddly and wants to snuggle with me constantly. They seldom snuggle with each other, probably because the other cat is super not snuggly. They love to be near me at basically all times and each separately ask for attention from me. They demand separate play times, snuggle sessions, and petting. I’m pretty sure the snuggly cat has separation anxiety because she cries when I’m out of sight.

I can’t speak to whether or not it’s less work because I’ve never owned a single cat. But I will say to take people saying that cats are super easy and low maintenance with a big grain of salt. Mine demand a TON of attention and one of the cats is a chaos demon and basically a toddler in feline form, so she really needs to be watched. And now one of them has chronic diarrhea and is on a special diet which has turned what was once a simple feeding routine into something complex, expensive, and stressful at times. I’m constantly trying to tire the one cat out while managing the other one’s anxiety and chronic diarrhea and they each want so much attention when I’m exhausted after work.

But…. It’s great! They’re so adorable and I love having these two little creatures share a home with me. I even like how high maintenance they are because honestly it gives me something to do, along with a routine. I honestly think it’s given me an added sense of purpose in my life. They’re great companions and they’re absolutely hilarious. My life is fuller and more joyful with them in it, even with the chronic diarrhea (though seriously if we could wrap that up that would be great!).

All that to say—no, you won’t be a third wheel. Yes, you should absolutely get two. Adopting an already bonded pair is 100% the way to go. And if you get adult cats from a shelter, they seriously have a way of knowing you saved them and they will love you so deeply for it.
posted by Amy93 at 1:43 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I would vote kittens over adult cats. No/less emotional baggage. And getting them when they're young, you'll have more time to teach them good habits, more time to bond with them and enjoy them, more time before the vet bills start rolling in. Also, as everybody knows, kittens are the cutest thing on the planet and everybody should have some at least once!

If I were you, I would foster a litter or two of kittens (or some adults!) and choose which to keep. That way you know they get along and what their personalities are like.
posted by bluesky78987 at 1:44 PM on July 7

Single person here, had 3 cats for the longest time (a foster fail situation) but am down to 2 now. (So then I added a dog.... which is a different story) All totally doable as a single person. 2 cats is at worst 25% more work than one (mostly in the litter box department) but is double the vet bills. The biggest challenges are if you need to feed them separately, or watch their litter box habits - its impossible to know who pooped what unless they use different boxes. And 2 cats will steal more of your bed than just one. But yeah, definitely recommend 2 if it's an option from you, either a bonded pair or from the same litter. But I would be hesitant to just get two random cats at the same time, because introducing cats to each other can be challenging.
posted by cgg at 1:48 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]

I have two cats as a single person. I've had one cat as a single person.

I don't think that two cats are much more work than one cat in terms of their basic, everyday needs. You have to have an extra litterbox, you might want to vacuum more, but your daily routine of caring for them is pretty much the same. It's when they develop special needs that it becomes noticeably more work: If one cat has a special diet and you need to separate them, for example. Two cats also just doubles the potential health or behavioral issues you need to manage.

That said I would always have more than one cat if I could. It's worth it to me. One cat good, two cats better. I've had more cats than that at a time before, and that was also completely manageable, but the more cats in play the more likely it is that they won't all get along.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:53 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]

We have a pair of sibling kittens (now 5 year old cats) who snuggle with each other, wrestle with each other, chase each other around the house (sometimes one of them is much higher energy than the other and hissing ensures) and, in the winter, both of them snuggle with us all night. In the summer heat, they don't usually sleep with us but will still climb into laps or demand belly rubs on the regular. I've read that littermates sometimes drift apart and stop cuddling with each other, fingers crossed that this doesn't happen with our pair.

The normal day-to-day routine is like 1.2x the work of having one cat. But woe if they are both allergic to the same food, or both decide to raid the kitchen cabinets for people snacks, and there is twice the vomit (or diarrhea) to deal with.

If you have the $$ for vet bills and cat food, go for two cats!
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:01 PM on July 7

You won’t be a third wheel. If for no other reason, as the provider of food, you’ll enjoy Most Favored status, even though you have the theoretical disadvantage of being a human instead of another cat.

There are cats who really want to be onlies and cats who really benefit from being part of a duo. Our current cat firmly believes she’s the former, and is very, very attached to her favorite human. But when we go away, we think it was better when she had someone else around, even though that was just the pesky intruder cat that she never took to.
posted by daisyace at 2:02 PM on July 7

Our elder cat was so unhappy before we brought him a friend that adopting a second cat meant less work on net. This won’t happen always — a lot of the time a cat brought into an established one-cat home won’t bond well. But we got lucky and our two love each other, groom each other, tussle happily, share food — it’s a real party. And yes, they still make time for the humans too. Do game out the vet costs (our elder cat is a high maintenance fellow now, sigh) but as long as that doesn’t spook you, I’d go with your instinct on this one!
posted by eirias at 2:46 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]

Single woman, two cats, it's been completely doable for me.
posted by humbug at 3:03 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]

To add another possible outcome—me and my family adopted a bonded pair of sister kittens. In their first year they did a lot of cuddling together, and grooming each other. Now that they’re older, they don’t seem to care for each other much—batting, hissing, and chasing each other in a way too fervent to be playing. But they both totally love the humans in the house! We theorize that they get jealous of each other when they see the other cat cuddling or spending time with one of us. But they have never treated us like third wheels. (And yes, we’re so happy to have two rather than one!)
posted by ejs at 4:24 PM on July 7

I have two bonded sister cats, former shop cats from the streets of Long Island City, NY. It's the best. They cuddle all the time, and groom each other, and chase each other, and sleep next to me in one big cat puddle. They collaborate to get me to give them treats sometimes (one rings the bell I have more than the other). I have two litter boxes with Pretty Litter, and it deodorizes so well that people say they'd never know I had one cat, let alone two—except that both cats were well-socialized as kittens, so they go right up to any visitors. I can't promise you cats that will be that easygoing, but it's so worth adopting two together.
posted by limeonaire at 6:56 PM on July 7

Ideal for me has been two male cats who were a bonded pair. Two was not significantly more work than one. Neutered before I had them at 4 months old so never got into a spraying habit.
posted by honeybee413 at 8:29 PM on July 7

If you opt for kittens, please get two! Many rescues will not home kittens to homes where they won't have a feline friend. A lonely kitten can develop single kitten syndrome which presents with many behavioural problems.

With older cats it's worth taking advice from the fosterer or rescue as to whether they feel the cat needs a friend or would thrive having all the attention to themselves.

I am a single female with a single cat, and she is very contented to have me to herself! I'd love to get another cat, but that would be for me not for her; I fear that if/when that happens, she's going to seriously have her nose put out of joint and it's going to need to be a long slow introduction process.

These are the factors I'm going to need to address if I get another cat, and they might be helpful for you to think about too.
1) expenses - insurance, food, litter, vet expenses
2) space - the recommended number of litter boxes is (number of cats)+1: do I have the space for 3 litter boxes in my home? What if I have to separate them (for medical reasons etc)?
3) portability - it's not going to be easy to lug two cats in cat carriers to the vet/groomer etc; what is my plan for that?

I'm not worried about taking care of two being significantly harder work than one. My cat takes me 5 mins of actual work everyday.

Cats are so wonderful. I agonised for years over whether I should get one and now that I have one my main regret is that I waited so long.
posted by unicorn chaser at 3:32 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]

(re: litterboxes, cats+1 is the recommendation for big American houses. I had up to 5 cats dealing with 3 litterboxes without issue as long as I scooped twice daily and changed the entire litter every week. A bonded pair can totally share one.)
posted by I claim sanctuary at 7:45 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]

I had 1 cat for 15 years, until she passed on in 2022. For the last year and a half I've had 2 cats and I can tell you (1) it's no more work than 1 cat and (2) it's 100x better, nobody should have only one cat.
posted by dmd at 8:50 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]

I had two cats that I got as kittens, within a week of each other. They quickly developed a predator/prey relationship, where the younger one just wanted to play and pounce, and the older one constantly felt attacked. The older one, I believe, would have been happier as an only cat. So it may just depend on the unknowables of each cat's temperament.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 8:57 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]

I'm a single woman who adopted two kittens about 18 months ago. I've had one cat; I've had one kitten. This is the way to go. With the exception of the day they got neutered, they are a joy. They're way more interested in playing, chasing, and wrestling with one another, and when they're tired and want to cuddle, they want me. They love each other and do cuddle together sometimes, but usually only after I've given up trying to hold both of them.

My complaints are things like: sometimes it gets too hot in bed being snuggled by two adorable ginger fluff balls. And when I go away, I know they have each other, even if they miss me.
posted by gladly at 7:41 PM on July 9

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