If you are a cat parent, you probably understand the guilt of leaving your feline friend alone whether to go to work, run errands, or pop out for a night with friends or family. It may have crossed your mind to provide your kitty with some feline company by getting a second cat.
Often, we project our needs or emotional state onto our pets. Is your cat lonely or do they relish some alone time to snooze? Does your cat need another cat's company? Better yet, does your cat want other cats around at all!?
Can my cat feel lonely?
Cats are notoriously independent. Descended from African wild cats, they are genetically solitary predators and have maintained their predatory instincts despite domestication. They are typically not as social as dogs or humans, and in the wild may live alone most of their lives. That is - except during the mating season and when raising their young.
Nonetheless, today’s domesticated felines have adapted to our living habits and formed bonds with their pet parents. Unrestricted access to resources, comfort, and affection have definitely played a role in their adapting to a domestic environment, but nature is nature, and many cats will continue solitary behavior by choice.
Can your cat feel lonely? Yes, but perhaps more out of boredom than the actual need for a feline companion. Many cats will not do well in a multi-cat household or if a second cat is introduced.
This can also be heavily influenced by your cat's infancy. Was it part of a happy and cared-for litter, or was it removed too early? Did your cat suffer trauma, such as losing their mom while still a kitten? When kittens remain in their litter and with their parent longer, they tend to be more social as they have acquired socialization skills from the start.
A second cat may be a great option to contrast feline boredom, but this will depend a great deal on your cat’s age and initial life experience. Younger cats do better with new entries because they may be more inclined to welcome a playmate.
How will I know if my cat is lonely?
Cats will show symptoms of separation anxiety and the need for company and attention. Some of these behaviors can be quite destructive and undesirable. If your cat suddenly changes behavior, a visit to your veterinarian is the place to start. It is important to rule out any underlying health issues as opposed to boredom or loneliness.
Symptoms of a lonely cat may include:
Loud and excessive meowing or vocalization.
Your cat wants attention and is bound to get it one way or another.
Cats are known for cleanliness, but excessive grooming may indicate separation anxiety.
Your feline may engage in destructive behavior such as scratching your furniture, knocking over objects, staining carpets, furniture, or bedding, or attacking your ankles as you walk by. When a cat is destructive, there is definitely a message to be heard.
While felines are known to snooze a good part of the day, if they sleep most of the day away, your cat, just like a human, may be suffering from depression.
Unwanted litter box behavior
The first thing to ascertain if your cat has decided not to use the litter box is if there is a urinary tract health issue that may cause inappropriate elimination. Also, consider that your cat may want the box cleaned more often or doesn’t like the choice of litter. If you can eliminate these three causes, rest assured your cat is trying to tell you something.
Changes in eating habits
If cats are bored, lonely, or depressed they may overeat. Health issues should be eliminated with your vet if you notice changes. Also, if your cat loses their appetite, they may be suffering from depression.
Does my cat need another feline for companionship?
Some cats will enjoy the option of having company, while other felines are perfectly happy being the only cat in the kingdom. If you do want to opt for a second cat, know that younger felines adapt to new friends more easily. A companion that is of a similar age has a better chance. Also, related cats and littermates have a much easier time when creating a multi-cat home.
Can I leave my cat alone?
This answer will largely depend on your cat. If you return home after a day out, check for signs of a disgruntled kitty. If your favorite armchair has been shredded, your cat may be suffering from separation anxiety.
One cat owner described how her cat would systematically seek out a piece of her clothing and chew a hole somewhere in it every time she left for work. Another cat parent spoke of a gray male Persian who would enter her closet and urinate inside her shoes when she left home. But the cat did so without leaving a drop of telltale urine on or outside of the shoe. As you can imagine, she got quite a surprise when she slipped her shoes on.
Providing your cat with hiding places, scratching posts, toys and a planter of cat grass may be enough for your feline to be happy while you’re away.
Should you decide to welcome a second kitty, consult your vet to help you find the perfect match for your companion and to get through those first few days of close encounters.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.