Q: I have been thinking of adding a kitten to our home. We have no other resident animals, and we work during the week. A breeder told me that she wouldn’t let us buy just one kitten; we would have to buy two, because one kitten would be lonely. What do you think about this? Is it better to get one kitten or two and why?
A: Whenever possible, it is best to adopt or buy a pair of kittens who are buddies. Besides keeping each other company, kittens learn from their interactions with each other. When playing together, kittens learn both social skills and important play boundaries. When one kitten plays a little too rough, the recipient will communicate to her buddy through body language and vocalizations to not play so intensely and to inhibit bites. The kittens quickly learn the acceptable limits of play. Additionally, playing together helps kittens learn vital hunting skills.
Kittens, by definition, have endless reservoirs of energy, actively playing and exploring their environment. When kittens are left alone for hours at a time with no one to play with, they often entertain themselves with activities that are not appreciated by their people. Also, single kittens can develop attention-seeking behaviors. Having a pair of kittens lessens the likelihood of this occurring. Two kittens keep each other stimulated and occupied, while simultaneously learning essential skills.
This is also true of bonded adult cats, as well. Bonded pairs should always be adopted into the same home. In addition to keeping each other stimulated, cats can become depressed and grieve when separated from a buddy they are bonded to.
That being said, older cats who have been alone all of their lives may or may not benefit from a new companion. It depends on the individual cats and their histories. Some cats are best off alone; bringing in a new companion can lead to stress and aggression. Other cats, when the introductions are done gradually, adjust well and welcome the new companion.