Lonely kittens

Do cats actually like being alone?

I remember 20 years ago it was common belief that cats didn’t like other cats and therefore should be kept alone. When I think about it now, it’s really sad how many cats were condemned to a lifetime of loneliness because of this misinterpretation of cat behavior.

When 2 dogs meet, they mostly turn to each other with curiosity, it is easy to introduce dogs to each other and arrange play dates for them. Cats act differently.

Cats don't seem to like other cats

What happens when two cats meet? They hiss, growl, fight or hide. Does that mean they don’t like other cats? No. They just have a different approach due to their evolution.

Cats are territorial. A new cat in their territory means less food, less chance of mating and a greater risk of becoming infected by the newcomer. Cats have learned to be wary of unfamiliar cats.

But can they learn to like each other? Absolutely. It just has its own process.

How to make cats like each other

There is a lot of advice on the internet, many videos explaining the introductory process of cats. The basic idea is that cats need to learn step by step that the new cat is not a threat and until they learn that, they can’t get close enough to get into conflict and associate bad feelings with the other party. The basic steps are usually:

  1. Let the 2 cats smell each other’s pillow, bed or box but do not allow the cats to actually see or hear or smell each other. Only some objects. The exchange of objects with their scent must take place regularly throughout the process of getting to know each other.
  2. The next step is, the cats are allowed to smell or hear each other through a door. Associate the meeting moments with positive things: feed them on the 2 sides of the door at the same time. Swap their rooms, allow them to explore the other cat’s environment and scent.
  3. Soon the cats will be allowed to see each other, but only through a net or cage so that they can’t fight. Giving them treats during this time can help them to associate the other cat with good experiences.
  4. The next step is to allow them to meet for shorter times under supervision.
  5. If everything went smoothly, they can meet for shorter periods without supervision.
  6. Expand the time without supervision. Success! You have 2 cats who accept each other (well… most of the times).
  7. This is a +1 and melts the heart when it happens: When your 2 cats finally really like each other and cuddle together. 💖

Can cats feel lonely?

Unfortunately, yes.

Kittens cuddle with their mother and siblings to survive. Since kittens cannot regulate their body temperature at first, they need each other or their mother to keep them warm. Being alone simply means death. They learn to comfort and groom each other, they sleep and play together.

Then they go to their new home and sleep alone, play alone, no one grooms them like another cat could. They play with their human friends, but just as humans can’t get all their social needs met by a cat (humans need to talk, cats can’t be conversationalists), cats can’t get all their social needs met by humans or other animals. They could get along fine without other cats. But would they choose to do so if asked? Or would they prefer to stay with one of their siblings?

Birmans are particularly social

Of course, each cat is individual, there are more and less social cats. It also depends on the breed. Some breeds are more independent, others enjoy being in groups.

Birmans belong to the rather social cat breeds. They are very easy to be introduced to other cats, are generally very sociable, have a lovable, friendly character and enjoy cuddling with other cats and people.

However, Birman cats can easily become depressed if left alone for long periods of time. It is a common practice among Birman breeders to ensure that their kittens are placed in families where the kitten is not kept as an only cat. The playmate does not necessarily have to be another Birman cat, it can also be any other cat, the only important thing is that it belongs to the same species.

Adding a kitten to a multi-cat household

When someone already has one or more older cats and would like to get a kitten, there are some issues to be considered.

The age gap

Kittens need a playmate, they can spend the whole day running and playing, chasing each other, climbing and doing crazy stuff. Older cats are more relaxed, they spend the day sleeping. They can be quite annoyed by a kitten that disturbs them during a nap, chases their tail or jumps on them. From the kitten’s point of view, it is sad, that no one runs with them, they are always turned down, no one wrestles with them.

On the other hand, the older cat might turn into a step-parent to the kitten, they can take care of it in a motherly way.

Again, it all depends on the character.

In general, however, my advice is to get two kittens of the same age so that they can play together and the older cat can withdraw but still take on the role of parent if she wants to.

Joining a clowder

If there are several cats in a household, welcoming a newcomer can be quite difficult. The cats live in a closed group (it is called a clowder), they have established their hierarchy. The introduction of a new kitten or adult cat must be done with particular patience.

Two young cats with a generally good character might go through the introductory process within a few days (or in some cases even within hours) but it is definitively not the case when the newcomer joins a clowder. Dropping a new cat into the middle and expect them to start playing with each other is a huge mistake that can result in severe fight or very bad associations that is hard to heal, leaving the owners distressed and the kitten eventually returned to the breeder (or shelter).

It is very important to do the introduction slowly and gradually. It can also help to introduce the newcomer to the older cats individually first and only later to the whole group.

Male or female

Pet cats are supposed to be neutered, so gender is not really an issue with pet cats. The common stereotype is that neutered males are cuddlier but studies show that the sex of a cat makes no difference in terms of affection. Male kittens tend to play rougher and this can be a problem with younger cats, especially when a young female joins a group of young males. After neutering, however, there are no real issues between the genders.

Other breeds

Cat breeds differ in their appearance, health and character. The advantage of a purebred cat is that the character and appearance of an adult cat can be predicted based on the breeders’ selection process. This means that it is possible to estimate how two cats of different breeds would get along. Again, of course, it depends on the character of the individual cat, but in general it is possible to make an assumption.

Birmans are rather relaxed, cuddly, friendly cats. They generally get along with everyone and every other breed. 

It is nevertheless advisable to consider the general characteristics of the breeds.

  1. Are both cats active or passive? A lap cat Birman vs an adventurous Bengal?
  2. Do they have similar needs? A Birman with long thick fur vs an always cold Sphynx?
  3. How dominant they are? 2 dominant cats might fight, a very dominant with a very submissive might end up in bullying.
  4. Is the size very different? A 15 kg Main Coon might not feel comfy in a 3 kg Devon Rex sized toilet and a Devon Rex might not be able to climb the cat tree designed for a Main Coon.

My conclusion

Cats are happier in loving cat companionship. The best way to ensure a long and happy life for your pets is to adopt two siblings (or littermates if there have been several litters) who have grown up together and can offer each other comfort, love and companionship.

It’s heart-warming to see them cuddling together, and it alleviates the guilt of having to leave them home alone.

Because together they are not really alone. 💞