It was believed that cats, by nature, were solitary creatures and didn’t need companionship to be happy and content. However, a study released by Harris International shows that cats are healthier and happier when they aren’t raised alone. Researchers interviewed 174 veterinarians across the country and most said social isolation has become a major problem in domestic cats and is the major cause of behavioral problems. Most agreed that most issues with single cats are remedied by a second cat. There are signs to watch for that could indicate your cat is lonely and needs a new kitten companion.
Isolation and Anxiety
When left alone, cats experience anxiety, depression and loneliness just as humans. Veterinarians agree that many cats deprived of cat companionship suffer from separation anxiety. Although owners spend time with their cat, it probably isn’t enough. Felines crave companionship of their own kind. While feral cats may hunt alone, they live in communities in the wild, demonstrating their social nature.
Lonely, depressed cats will often develop behavior problems. According to 86 percent of veterinarians all cats suffering from separation anxiety display negative behavior such as refusing to use the litter box and spraying and soiling the house. Other problems include excessive vocalization, compulsive grooming and destructive behavior. Many owners feel these issues are irreversible and either euthanize the cat or surrender it to an animal shelter. Behavior-related problems are main cause of abandonment of otherwise healthy cats. Millions of cats are surrendered every year and even euthanized when having a cat companion would have solved the problems, the study points out.
Signs of Anxiety and Depression
Cats suffering with anxiety may overgroom, sometimes licking themselves bald in spots. The cat may also become destructive, scratching and clawing at items other than its cat tree. Lonely cats may also become aggressive. A depressed cat may sleep a lot or be more restless, waking you in the middle of the night. The cat may also change its eating habits by eating more or less.
Adding a Second Cat
If your cat is showing signs of anxiety, you can get a second cat. You will have the additional cost of food, but cats can share the same litter box, cat trees and toys. And while your vet costs will increase, you'll likely be resolving many existing and future mental health problems in your present cat. While there may be some adjustment issues when the cats are first introduced to each other, they'll be happier and healthier in the long run, veterinarians say.