Does your cat need a friend?


Thank you to the VANCOUVER SUN for the original posting.

Does your cat need a friend?
By Rebecca Ledger, Special To The Sun October 22, 2013

[VOKRA has always thought 2 are better than 1]

Most of Canada's 10.2 million owned cats live with other cats. Owning multiple felines is appealing because, when they get along, cats can provide comfort, playtime and mental stimulation for each other in a species-compatible way. And of course, doubling up the cats doesn't double the workload in terms of feeding, cleaning litter boxes and visits to the veterinarian - there are economies of scale, too.

Despite this, animal scientists have often questioned whether multi-cat households are good for cat welfare. It seems likely that the domestic cat evolved from Middle Eastern wild cats between 70,000 and 100,000 years ago. So, is sharing territory and resources under the same roof a good idea for a domesticated species that has evolved from a solitary, free-ranging predator? There is already some evidence that cats living in groups have more welfare problems than singly housed cats. For example, "inappropriate elimination" (identifiable as peeing and pooping in places you'd rather they didn't) and lower urinary tract disease both occur more frequently in cohabitating cats than singletons. And yet, feral cats will often choose to congregate around common resources, such as farm cats in a rodent-infested barn. So, what do cats really prefer? This question prompted a new study into the well-being of cats living singly, in pairs and in groups. The results, published this month in the Journal of Physiology & Behavior, used fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (GCM) to measure cats' stress levels. Just like in humans, this metabolite of the stress hormone, cortisol, increases when cats are stressed.

The study's results provide relief for many cat owners, indicating that cat stress levels do not
differ according to the number of cats they live with - unless the cats are under two years old.

Surprisingly, young cats and kittens living alone were more stressed than those living with other felines.

The researchers also identified another risk factor for stress. The study compared cats that enjoyed being petted with those that avoided it, and with those that didn't like it but were forced to tolerate it anyway.

GCM levels were highest in the cats that reluctantly put up with being petted. The study's authors hypothesize that living with other cats is good for cats that don't like to be stroked, because owners have other outlets for their petting needs.

So, lessons to be heeded for us cat owners. First off, getting two young cats or kittens instead of one is better for their well-being, and helps to get more shelter cats adopted too. Secondly, if our cat dislikes being petted, we should let them be, otherwise we are probably going to stress them out. Lastly, if you have one or more cats that seem anxious or tense, speak to your veterinarian or clinical behaviourist who can provide resources to help.

Dr. Rebecca Ledger is an animal behaviour scientist, and sees cats and dogs with behaviour problems on veterinary referral across the Lower Mainland. Read her blog at

© Copyright (c) Special To The Sun

Posted by Grino on November 7, 2013 @ 12:00 PM

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