Tigers live as lonely hunters in the jungle. Lions proudly live in grasslands. But what about our house cats? Are they loners like tigers or social like lions? Yes and yes and no and no – depending on the cat and the situation, say experts. We spoke to some of these professionals to try to answer the age-old questions: Do cats get sad and lonely? And do cats need other cats?
Do cats get lonely? Or are they happier in households with a cat?
The first step in the answer, “Do cats get lonely?” knows that domestic cats are lonely when hunting and eating. Dogs may have a reputation for being more social, but that’s just because they hunt in packs. Not so with cats who don’t like to eat too close together. Many parents in households with multiple cats place their kittens’ food bowls side by side, but this is a mistake, says Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant in San Francisco Bay. “Cats have to eat, so they will eat, but they are not very happy. It’s a bit stressful, ”says Krieger, also known as The Cat Coach.
However, outside of meals, most cats have social needs. While some cats hate their own species and need to be the only pet in the household, feral cats form colonies and many pet cats are best friends with one another.
“They have various complex social and cooperative behaviors, such as caring for each other’s boys,” says Dr. Leticia, MS Dantas, DVM, MS, Ph.D., Faculty Member in Behavioral Medicine, University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Athens Service, and a diplomat from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists say about feral cats. “The confusion comes from the fact that strangers are usually not welcome. The group usually consists of a family line – a queen and part of her litter who have chosen not to leave, not newcomers. “
And what about domestic cats? Do cats feel sad when they are the only cat in the household? “Domestic cats are a social species,” says Dr. Dantas. “Yes, you can have cats that are friends because they really like each other and not because they have to,” says Krieger.
Even so, cats can survive as solo creatures, says Krieger, even if that’s not their preference. And adult kittens have a territorial character.
The answer to “Do cats get lonely?” is probably yes – if they are kittens.
This territorial nature does not usually set in until adulthood. Kittens crave playmates, and they especially bond with their littermates. But even if you adopt kittens from different litters, they are likely to become besties right away.
“For most kittens, they learn social skills by interacting and playing with each other,” says Krieger. “Most kittens do just fine together.”
While kittens tend to be more socially flexible, “some individuals are only born in any species that are uncomfortable around strangers,” warns Dantas.
Adapt your cat to a second cat
Do you have a cat who hates cats who need to be alone (a situation that may result from a kitten separated from her littermates at a young age) or a lonely cat who wants a mate? It can be difficult to tell because your cat may be clingy and needy with their human but not necessarily get on well with another cat around them, says Krieger. Knowing the history of both cats – the resident and the potential newcomer – is helpful in predicting whether the two will get along.
“Growing up with others isn’t a recipe for success because cats are individuals and some of them just don’t get along,” says Dantas. “Cats who have been playful with other cats, have been socialized with other cats as kittens and have been socialized with other cats throughout their lives, and who have no clinical signs of anxiety or fear, are more likely to succeed.”
When choosing a cat companion for your cat, look for a similar age, and therefore a similar energy level. If you have an older cat, a kitten will torment and molest him with manic energy. “The kitten’s job is to be playful, to explore its world and to attack things,” says Krieger. “The older cat’s job is to take a nap.” If you have an older cat and want to adopt a kitten, get two kittens so they can play together and let their older uncle relax in peace. Otherwise, find an older best friend for your adult cat.
The next question you have when you ask “Do cats get lonely?” is: “How do I introduce two cats?”
“Cats … form very close bonds with one another,” explains Kreiger. “Even adult cats can become close companions if properly introduced.”
Connected: How to introduce a new cat to your cat
Introduce cats properly by keeping them separate first, says Dantas. That way, they get to know each other’s sounds and smells and their brains have time to hopefully reduce the neuroendocrine stress response. Each cat needs its own food bowl and litter area, and positive experiences should be accompanied by introductions such as treats.
Finding a new companion for a grieving cat
Are cats sad and lonely – after their longtime cat companion dies? When a cat dies, the loss leaves a void in both your life and the life of your remaining cat. The question is when cat parents – and their resident kittens – should seek new company. Dantas and Warriors recommend giving your cat (and yourself) time to grieve and stabilize. This can take a month or several months.
“Cats bond, but they just crave the company of the cats they are bonded with,” says Dantas. “A bond cannot be transferred from one person to another.”
Krieger also advises against bringing in another cat immediately. Though your loved one is lonely; This is stressful for your pet as the new cat is an alien. “You know this cat is not your pal,” she says. “They smell different, they look different and everything about them is different.”
Originally published in 2017.
Thumbnail: Photography by AspenPhoto / Thinkstock.