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Jen is adopting her first kitten soon. But she wonders: Can one kitten alone be happy? Get our answers in this post.

Is it better to adopt one kitten or adopt a pair? Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

We are getting a kitten this month and it will be our very first one. We have lived with adult cats before. Reading online, we increasingly get the sense that just having one kitten is not ideal for the kitten’s development so we are considering getting a second around the same age. Here are our concerns: 1) It would have to be a kitten from a different litter. 2) Both would come to us around nine weeks but would still need to be vaccinated, so we’re not sure it is safe. Would we have to keep them apart until vaccinations have happened? 3. Is there a chance of them not getting on? 4. Would we need different litter trays and bowls for them (as kittens and once they’ve grown up)? Can one kitten alone be happy? The internet is so conflicting on these topics so I’m hoping that you’ll be able to give some advice or at least your opinion. We just want our kitten to be happy and healthy.

~ Jen

Bella: Before we start today’s post, we have some sad news: we had to say goodbye to Thomas earlier this month. He was 19-1/2 years old. Mama’s going to write a tribute post series about Thomas when she’s ready, because his story is truly legendary. I guess I get to be Top Cat now? *lip quiver*

Tara: I miss Thomas, too. *sniffle* But we’ll carry on. We’ll try our best to give good advice, even without his amazing wisdom.

Bella: So, Jen, can one kitten alone be happy? Well, it’s possible, but you’ll have to spend a lot of time playing with the kitten and socializing him appropriately. Kittens raised alone can tend to get too “clawsy,” so to speak, and use their claws and teeth too hard.

Tara: Adopting two kittens has a world of benefits. First, they’ll both have the same amount of energy for playing. Mama says this can be a blessing or … well, a challenge … depending on the circumstances.

Bella: Another thing is that kittens raised in pairs tend to be better socialized, both with other cats and with people.

Tara: And finally, kittens teach one another boundaries around the use of teeth and claws. If one kitten bites or claws too hard, the other will squeak and let the biter/scratcher know that’s not fun. This will save you a lot of effort in training.

Bella: As for bringing your kittens home at 9 weeks–well, that’s okay, kittens are mostly weaned by then, but it’s better if you can wait until they’re 12 weeks old. That way they get all the benefit of their mother’s lessons on “how to cat,” as Mama says. Also, at that age, they’re typically vaccinated, especially if you adopt from a shelter (which we strongly recommend, by the way).

Tara: Not only are shelter kittens already vaccinated; they’re spayed or neutered, too, so you don’t have to worry about that. That adoption fee covers services that would cost you about $300 or more, depending on where you live, so it’s a real bargain!

Bella: But if you do have to adopt them at 9 weeks, you should keep them separate until both cats are vaccinated. That’s something we recommend for all adoptions that involve unvaccinated cats or cats with an unknown vaccine history. (It’s okay if you bring them both to the vet for their vaccines, as long as they’re in separate carriers.)

Tara: Will the two kittens get along? We think it’s almost certain that they will, even though it’s much clearer if you adopt littermates because you’ll be able to identify bonded pairs. One thing that will always bond kittens is play! And kittens are more adaptable than adult cats because their brains are still growing and adjusting to life as it happens.

Bella: As for kitty supplies like food dishes and litter boxes, each kitten should definitely have their own food dish. You can use a single water dish, as long as it’s of a good size, but whatever you do, don’t get those food-and-water-bowl-together contraptions. What happens when food and water are right next to each other is that the food gets in the water and fouls it. Yuck!

Tara: Regarding litter boxes, most cat behavior experts recommend one per cat plus one extra. That said, we’ve gotten away with three litter boxes and three cats, so you could probably get away with two litter boxes, especially if they get used to the setup as kittens.

Bella: But don’t put both boxes in the same room. If you do, and one kitten becomes dominant, he may “guard” the litter box and keep the more submissive kitten from being able to use it.

Tara: Keep in mind that this “guarding” can be very subtle. You may not even see evidence that guarding is going on. But trust me, the submissive cat knows!

Bella: Another thing about litter boxes: Buy the biggest size you can get! Even when they’re kittens, this will be helpful because kittens tend to dig around in the litter a lot. Most litter boxes sold are actually too small for even regular-sized adult cats, and the walls of the box may not be sufficient to contain a “vertical pee-er.” But we’ve got a solution for that, too!

Tara: So, can one kitten alone be happy? It’s possible, but you’ll have to work really hard to make sure the kitten uses up all his energy and learns proper claws-and-teeth behavior. Two kittens can keep each other company and socialize one another through normal kitten play behavior.

Bella: A book we strongly recommend for people new to kittens is legendary cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett’s Think Like a Cat. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to make sure your kitten(s) are well socialized and happy.

Tara: Jen, we hope this helps you and your new kitten–or kittens!

Bella: What about you other readers? What do you think: Can one kitten alone be happy? Have you adopted a young solo kitten? Do you have any tips for Jen from your experience? What about with raising pairs of kittens? Please tell us about it in the comments!

Tara: And don’t forget to share our post on your favorite social media platform! We’ve got some super-easy social sharing buttons right below this post. Thanks in advance!

Thomas T. Bombadil, Most Puissant Rat Slayer (03/17/2001 - 08/06/2020)

Thomas T. Bombadil, Most Puissant Rat Slayer, Top Cat, and King of All Western Cats (3/17/2001 – 8/6/2020)