It was Leonardo da Vinci who said that the ‘smallest feline is a masterpiece’ so you can imagine that having two cats would constitute an absolute gasp on the Richter Scale of Magnificence! Most homing centres advocate taking kittens and cats in pairs and I wholeheartedly agree and recommend to anyone wishing to adopt a kitten, or a cat, to get two.

Joey and Billy in the litter trayWhilst dogs are pack animals and are happy to live in the family and treat it as their pack, cats are solitary creatures by nature preferring their own company. But when left alone all day while children are out at school and the grown ups are out of the house working long hours, cats that live by themselves become very bored and lonely. They are not destructive like dogs can be when left on their own but they can become owner-dependent.

I knew someone whose cat was so delighted to see her when she came in from work that she couldn’t stand all the attention the cat gave her! The poor cat just needed to catch up and tell her owner all her news and ask how her day went but the owner wanted time to herself first to unwind from a busy day at work. Although I offered tips and advice, the owner was unwilling to try to meet her cat’s needs and in the end I suggested her that it might be in the best interests of the cat to rehome it. I can tell you that this sweet little cat is now in a home where she is loved and appreciated by her new people.

I love it when my cats rush out to greet me; they tell me all about their day and tell tales on one another and then I tell them all about my day and we kiss and pet and then they have dinner – it’s all part of their routine. I felt very sorry for this unloved and unappreciated cat and its worthwhile noting that if you don’t have the time to put into having a cat then maybe having a pet is not for you. It IS a commitment; some cats need to be groomed on a daily basis and to leave a Persian cat, for example for just a day or two can cause their fur to become very badly matted. 

So what would two cats or kittens do all day? Well, up to 18 hours or more a day is spent sleeping. A couple more hours are spent grooming and maybe just over an hour is spent eating. Kittens will play quite happily together for hours on end, rough and tumbling over each other, chasing each other’s tails and finding odd things around them to play with and take their minds off being without human company. Older cats usually sleep more and if they have access to a cat flap and the great outdoors, they are more likely to go and patrol their territory, surveying their kingdom and perhaps hunt a little ‘game’ while on the look out for neighbouring usurpers.

Timmy telling Ellie the Rules of the HouseMany people think that taking on two kittens or cats would cause pandemonium in the house but from personal experience, I’ve found that taking on a single kitten was far more tiring, and both times when I rescued a single kitten, I was ready to throw in the towel a few times. Happily, I’m pleased to say that I didn’t and was rewarded – eventually – by sweet-natured adolescent cats who were shown the ropes and told the house rules by the older, more established members of the Daily Mews Mansion. But had the singletons arrived as part of a pair, I’m sure that they would have amused themselves rather than driving me crazy as they ran up the curtains, walked along the curtain rails, abseiled back down the curtains – and on and on – the list of ‘misdemeanours’ grows ever longer! 

In these times of financial uncertainty and economic downturn, it’s essential that you work out whether or not taking on a pair of kittens is the right thing to do. Garfield lived until he was over 20 years old – for some people that would be equivalent to putting their child through college – and for me my cats are a lifelong commitment, no matter how dire my finances become.

There are many websites which have all manner of fabulous cat furniture, plush velvet beds, fancy litter-trays, all types of jingly toys but as much as I applaud the creativity of those who designed these feline accoutrements, I know that for many people, a cardboard box with an old jumper, a basic plastic tray and a feather attached to a piece of string will suffice and be just as loved by the new kitten or cat. There is no need to have an open-ended cheque (check) book in order to make your new little kitten feel at home. 

When I first got Biggles and Garfield 23 years ago, my son and I had a big old cardboard box which we lined with an old blanket that was no longer used on our beds. It was folded up several times to make it very squishy and warm and Biggles and Garfield loved it, settling down immediately to a good sleep. We rolled up silver foil (aluminium foil) in to little balls which we’d gently throw or roll near either cat and they’d both run after them for as long as we wanted to throw them. Later, David, my son, would find birds’ feathers on his way home from school and we’d attach them to pieces of string and float them over Biggles and Garfield’s heads, tantalisingly just out of reach so that they had to jump or stretch up.

None of these things cost us any money. As time went on the cardboard box was replaced with two nice fleecy donut beds but more often than not, they could be found curled up together in just one of them!

© Pauline Dewberry July 2009

One Cat is Company

"One cat is company.
Two cats are a conspiracy. 
Three cats is an attempted takeover.
Four or more cats is a complete coup!"

Shona Steele (Australia)

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