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.
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!
Oh we can help with this too. Pairs of kittens are certainly more fun. But you can have a single kitten. If you do go to a rescue, they can help you with that. Some rescues do require kittens be adopted in pairs or if single to a house with another young cat. It does give them a playmate as well as learning cat manners. For example, the last litter we raise had a pair of boys who needed to go together. The current group we have has 2 kittens that would be fine alone with an understanding that YOU are now their main source of entertainment.
I feel that being an only kitten is tough on the little guy….the kitten will need much more attention and if he/ she doesn’t get it, might get depressed……but if this is all a person can do, then at least you are saving one little kitty from being homeless. Kitties in pairs I think, are much more sociable and teach each other…I was an only kitten ( LOL ) and always wished for a sibling !
Mama’s Mama was an only kitten until she was 11 years old, and she often wished when she was a child that she had a sibling to share adventures with.
My condolences for your loss of Thomas! I have been following your site for many years, and your Furbies Sagacious advice has immensely helped me in my issues my gang/( My kids, haha…I’m a single Senior guy, and adopted 5 after I lost many family members VERY fast and in short time spans. ). My ‘kids’ have helped me thru all sorts of tough times-myself having a nine-inch brain tumor, its diagnosis, removal, and recovery, plus a host of other problems! Yes, my Calico’s, my boy Tuxedo, my new addition of a tabby…yes, they certainly are family!
So, thank you to all your kitties who guided to you providing the needed answers us ‘Cat-Staffers’ need to know!
Again, my thoughts and prayers out to you!
Wow, you’ve been through a lot! We’re so glad your cats were there to help you through all of it. And thank you so much for your condolences and compassion. <3
I agree. Pairs/multiples are more well adjusted – and more fun! Watching them play and interact is better than ANYTHING on TV.
Socially, an ‘only’ kitten – especially at only 9 weeks – is still learning basic yet valuable stuff from momma cat. Especially potty etiquette and grooming – two lessons that will make your life much easier.
Having a pair means that they will teach each other the basics, and learn the bigger stuff together. Even non-littermate pairs will grow to like each other – even if their purrsonalities differ. Just like people, they’ll learn each other’s moods and cues. (They may not always abide by them – my boys LOVE to agitate their mother, even when she’s clearly not in the mood to play, but it only lasts a minute or two – but they learn.)
If nothing else, they’ll keep each other company – especially if you’re out of the house a lot – and THAT will help prevent many “accidents” that can happen when an only, energetic kitten gets bored and looks for adventures.
Mama agrees with how fun it is to watch pairs of kittens play. When she adopted Sinéad and Siouxsie, they were only six weeks old (and Mama was only 25, so she really didn’t know better), and Mama had so much fun watching them playing together…even when they were so tiny!
I am so, so sorry for the loss of your beautiful boy. Less than a month ago we had to make the incredibly difficult decision to let our 10 year old boy cat go. It all happened so fast, we are all still struggling to deal with the fact that “His Royal Highness, Prince Legolas, Duke of Lazy” is no longer here. I know I made the right decision in letting him go, but the heartbreak is and probably will, always be there.
Carmelita, we’re so sorry for your loss, and that it happened so quickly you had no time to adjust to the idea of Legolas’ passing. Purrs and compassion to you.
We are so sorry about sweet Thomas – but we know you will continue to give your best help and advice as a way to honor him !
We sure will! We know it’s what Thomas would want! ~ Bella and Tara
I’ve done it both ways. Adopted my first, and my second a year later. The older kitty was a male, but was the best “mama cat” I ever saw. When I got my second, he hisses and spit for two days, then held her down and cleaned her from nose to the tip of her tail. He did the same thing when her nephew joined them a year later. On the other hand, she wanted nothing to do with her nephew and continues hissing till he went to his forever home.
My current two were littermates and looked so similar I had to put collars on them to tell them apart. They seemed to be joined at the hip. They did everything together. When I took them in for neutering, I told them I had brought two carriers, but they’d be happier together. When I went back to get them, the attendant said, “Oh were you right!! They made their displeasure known when they came out of anesthesia.” She handed me one empty carrier and one with both kitties in it. They are 13 now, but still stay pretty close together.
When Mama adopted Sinéad and Siouxsie, they looked so similar that Mama could barely tell them apart. It wasn’t until they started getting bigger and growing into their personalities that Mama had even a chance of knowing who was who!
So sorry gang to hear about sweet Thomas’s passing I have followed you all for years. My condolences to all.
Thank you so much for your kindness and compassion. :-)
I’m so sorry, JaneA! Somehow I completely missed what happened! We’d love to hear Thomas stories whenever you’re ready. Sending love and hugs. And please, if you need to talk – let me know.
Thank you so much. Mama will be sure to share the epic Thomas post, and we appreciate your offer of support~
Im sure its better to get them at the same time. Do you have any suggestions for adding a playmate for a 5 year old cat that has always ruled the roost himself. He is fixed, so he’s very laid back.
I believe that your couples are more well-adjusted and more fun! It is better than anything on TV to watch them play and connect.
Socially, a ‘only’ kitten from momma cat is still learning basic but valuable things, particularly at only 9 weeks. Two lessons that will make your life much easier, particularly potty etiquette and grooming.
Getting a pair suggests that they can teach the fundamentals to each other,
Cats generally do well on their own. But if kept alone, they will become lonely at the latest when you leave the apartment for hours, and the cat stays behind alone and has no one to snuggle up with and romp around with.