A common thread among folks looking to take on a second cat is wanting their resident cat to have a friend. This can be tricky business for any pet owner, especially for cat owners since cats are considered to be only semi-social. This isn’t to say people shouldn’t have multiple cats, just that having multiple cats doesn’t always mean they’ll be friends or even like each other.
Recently, scientists have become more interested in the social aspects of cats and have spent some time studying the interpersonal relationships of feral colony cats to get an unadulterated view of what amounts to friendship between cats.
Colony cats, just like their descendants, are only capable of peaceful cohabitation as long as resources are plentiful. As long as everyone has what they need, fights over territory and other resources aren’t necessary. The cats will live among each other in relative harmony until resources start to decline.
Relationships do form between cats, primarily related females. In cases of managed colonies, they found neutered male cats have the same social abilities as their female counterparts. But, friends or not, as resources decline, the cats will disperse to find their own resources. There has yet to be a study on whether or not relatedness is the key or if the bond is formed through early exposure.
So, what does friendship look like in cats? There are six easy to spot signs your cats are BFFs.
They touch noses – All the better to smell each other.
They headbutt each other – Scent swapping is the new friendship bracelet.
They rub up against each other – But seriously, scent swapping is everything.
They play together – It’s what friends do.
They sleep together – Everyone needs a shoulder to dream on.
These are surefire signs your cats are friends, but even still, you shouldn’t expect even the best of friends to eat together or to share one litter box (two things cats hate to share). Always make sure your cats have their individual needs met so their relationship can flourish.
Not seeing these behaviors in your cats? That’s okay! In reality, most cats in multi-cat households merely tolerate each other. The ability of a cat to be social with other cats is learned at an early age, so much so that science hasn’t yet teased out whether cats are only friendly with related individuals because of the inherent early exposure or if the early exposure makes them generally friendly toward other cats.
I’ve outlined a few simple things you can do to help keep the peace in your multi-cat household here: