If you’re lucky enough to enjoy the company of a feline, you know that one cat frequently leads to two cats. Or three cats. Or more cats. How do you know you’re ready to expand your family? If you’re exhibiting these signs, it might be time to make some extra room on the windowsill.
You’ve Already Had “The Talk” With Your Cat
Before you add another furry member to your brood, there’s a very important someone you need to discuss things with: your “first born” cat. Although it’s likely he’ll welcome the new company, that’s not always the case.
“Cats are social animals—they prefer to live in a colony if resources allow,” says Aimee Simpson, VMD and medical director at VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia. “However, cats are like people; they have different personalities and sometimes clash with each other.”
Although there’s no fool-proof way to determine if your cat is cat-friendly, Simpson suggests a trial run with a friend’s cat to gauge his reaction. Curious or disinterested behavior is an encouraging sign that a new housemate will be welcome.
You’ve Been Cruising Adoption Sites
There’s no harm in looking, of course—but once you start bookmarking pages and cooing at your computer, chances are you’re close to bringing home another cat. While you’re searching for The One, keep in mind that the new addition has to be a match for your existing kitty, as well.
A shelter or rescue should be able to provide you with a good idea of their cats’ personalities and interactions with other animals, whether you’re considering a kitten or a more distinguished feline.
“Kittens tend to be the easiest to introduce into a household because they’re undeterred even if the first attempts at an introduction don’t go well—they just keep trying!” says Simpson. “However, if you have an older cat or a laid-back cat, you may want to find a cat with a similar personality.”
You’ve Made Peace with the Litterbox Situation
The only downside to multiple cats? Multiple litter boxes. The rule of thumb is one box for each cat plus an extra box for good measure—so your scooping duties and litter needs are about to double at least. It’s worth it, but it’s also something to keep in mind the next time no one in the family wants to take on this particular chore.
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Litter boxes aren’t the only things you’ll need multiples of. Cats tend to be possessive, and as with human children, a new sibling can bring out the jealousy.
“Cats like to have their own things, so be sure to provide separate bowls for feeding and bedding for each cat,” says Simpson.
You might also want to add some new toys to the mix—a battle over the ever-popular Mr. Feather Mouse could get ugly.
You’ve Done the Math and Made a Budget
Being a pet parent can be expensive—and being a pet parent to two cats can be twice as expensive. In addition to expected costs such as food, flea preventatives and routine vet care, it’s important to budget for emergencies and be prepared for a lifelong commitment.
When adopting, speak to the shelter staff about what vaccines and procedures are covered under the adoption fee, and get a clear understanding of any special medical needs your new cat may have.
You’re Ready to Take it Slow
No matter how friendly your cats are, you can’t expect them to hit it off immediately. In fact, introducing new cats is a step-by-step, easy-does-it process.
At first, cats should be kept in separate areas of the home with their own food, water, litter and other necessities. Then, Simpson recommends exchanging bedding to provide a scent introduction. After that, a supervised introduction is in order, with your new cat initially in a closed carrier.
“When they seem comfortable and curious you can allow the new cat out of the carrier to explore,” says Simpson. “Feeding the cats during these times can build a positive association between the presence of the other cat and food—continue rewarding friendly behavior.”
Once you’ve witnessed multiple friendly interactions, your cats can spend unsupervised time together and start becoming besties.
You’ve Measured Your Lap
As those with multiple cats know, it is, indeed, possible to accommodate two snuggly cats on one lap. While it may seem tricky at first, trust that they will find a way to make it comfortably work—for them, at least.
You’re Already on Your Way to Pick Up Your New Friend
So you’ve made up your mind, have you? Once you get a good snuggle with your new pet in, the next thing on your to-do list is setting up an appointment with your veterinarian. According to Simpson, the new addition should already be fully vaccinated, spayed or neutered, treated for fleas, and tested for transmissible diseases such as feline leukemia virus as well as intestinal parasites before coming home (standard practices at most shelters). However, an introductory appointment with your regular vet is important to make sure kitty gets off to a healthy start.
Congrats on the new addition!
Monica Weymouth is a writer, editor and certified Weird Animal Lady. She lives in Philadelphia with her two rescued Shih Tzus.