Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I’m currently in the process of moving into a small house near my college campus and I’m planning on bringing my cat to live with me as I’ve planned to do for awhile. The problem is that my family has another cat that my cat has lived with her whole life and I’m worried how this will affect the two of them. I guess I should give some background on the cats. The family cat is about 8 years old and is more of a secluded type, she tends to keep to herself and sleep in hidden places during the day, occasionally coming out to get attention or love or to even sleep at the end of the bed. My cat I bought with my own money and is 7 years old. The reason I specify that I bought her myself is to point out that I’d always planned to take her with me when I found a more permanent place to stay. My cat is a very affectionate cat who loves to be the center of attention and climb all over you and whatever you are doing. The two don’t interact all that much other than when eating or when they chase and play with each other late at night. So my question to you, do you think separating them would be harmful to the two or might they be okay?
Thomas: First of all, Abigail, thank you so much for being responsible to your cat and for caring about how your cat and your family’s cat might feel about being separated.
Bella: Believe it or not, some people don’t think about that stuff!
Tara: That said, separating cats can be tricky, particularly if they’re very closely bonded.
Thomas: In your situation, it sounds like the two cats enjoy one another’s company, but they’re not as closely bonded as, say, Bella and me.
Bella: Thomas and I love to snuggle and play together, and it would break our hearts if we were to be separated.
Tara: I’d feel kind of sad to be separated from Thomas and Bella, but I’m much more of a “people cat.” I could go anywhere as long as I had Mama.
Thomas: It sounds like your cat is a lot more of a “people cat,” like Tara, and she tends to bond more closely with you and your family than with other kitties.
Bella: With that in mind, we think it will be okay to separate the two cats, with a few cautions.
Tara: If your cat is also very affectionate toward the rest of your family, it might take some adjustment on her part to only have you.
Thomas: If your cat is used to having people around all the time, then it might be kind of hard on her to spend a lot of time by herself.
Bella: *purrr, purrrr, purrrr*
Tara: Bella, get off Mama’s arm. You’re making it hard for her to type our post!
Bella: But why? She’s typing just fine!
Thomas: Bella, you can snuggle with Mama after we’re done.
Thomas: Anyhow, back to your question, Abigail. What we’d like you to do if you do bring her with you is to monitor her for signs of depression. That will tell you she may be lonely.
Bella: Depression in cats manifests itself in many of the same ways it does for people. A depressed cat can sleep a lot (even for a cat), or have changes in appetite
Tara: A depressed cat can also exhibit changes in behavior–for example, if she’s usually very affectionate and she becomes standoffish, or vice versa.
Thomas: Mama says that depressed cats also get a terribly sad look in their eyes, too. When she brought one of the family cats to her apartment, that cat got lonely and depressed–she was used to being around other cats–so Mama brought her back to the family homestead where she could live the life she’d gotten used to.
Bella: Your family should also monitor the other cat for similar signs.
Tara: We don’t know what your schedule is going to be like when you’re back in school. If your cat is going to spend a lot of time alone and she becomes depressed, you might want to think about adopting another cat so she has a friend to play with.
Thomas: Since she’s used to being around other cats, she might do well with a friend.
Bella: But be very thoughtful if you adopt. Be sure to bring in a cat whose personality will work well with your cat’s. Adoption counselors at shelters are really good at helping out with this.
Tara: Separating cats can be done, but it requires some forethought and some careful monitoring of both cats to be sure they’re handling the situation well.
Thomas: We wrote a post last year answering a letter from a person going through a divorce and wondering about how separating cats would work for them. Even though you’re not getting divorced, you may find some helpful information in that post as well.
Bella: Ultimately, it sounds like your cat will be okay as long as she’s with you. If she gets lonely, consider adopting a friend for her or adjusting your schedule (if possible) to spend more time with her.
Tara: Cats are notoriously resistant to change, and it will be stressful for all of you at first, but we do think you and your cat will do just fine.
Thomas: We’d recommend that your family read this post, too. That way, they’ll know what signs to look for in their cat.
Bella: Once again, Abigail, we thank you for being so responsible and caring so much about how the cats will feel if they’re separated.
Tara: What about you other readers? Do you have any recommendations for Abigail? Have you separated cats before, and what was the outcome? Please share your thoughts in the comments.