We give cats the time we can spare and the love we can share from our busy schedules, but that's not always enough. Sometimes a furry friend of the feline persuasion helps to fill a cat's day when his people are away.
They can hear the flutter of a flies wings or hear a mouse creeping in a crawl space ... you can't. They can get crazy on catnip together, groom each other with those raspy tongues, chase each other playfully in a game of zoom-around-the-room or just crash on the cat tree with each other while soaking up the sun during a catnap.
One of the many myths about cats is that they prefer to live alone, but that's not necessarily true. When people ask me about getting a second adult cat, I always encourage them to do so.
There will be a period of adjustment, of course. Shelter and colony studies show that it may take up to one year for a new adult cat to be accepted by other cats. But in many cases, if not most, it's worth the effort: Veterinary studies show that when cats have company, both cats are healthier. Animals with buddies are sick less often, require shorter stays when they are hospitalized and live longer.
The friendship usually works best if the cats are of the opposite sex. Two males or two females may each seek to be top cat, even if they are spayed or neutered. Another pairing that works well is an older cat and a younger cat. The presence of a youngster can enliven an adult cat who may have lost some of his spark or put on a little pudge.
The easiest way to go about it is to adopt a pair at once. Bonded pairs are commonly available for adoption, typically littermates raised together. They're often overlooked by people who insist on a single cat, or on kittens, but they're ideal for adopting if you don't already have a cat but are ready to open your home and your heart.
If you already have one cat, though, adopting a bonded pair may not be wise:
Cats seem to get along best in even-numbered groups. When there's an odd cat out, he may get picked on or develop aggression toward the other cats in an attempt to make his way to the top of the tabby totem pole.
Two cats are twice the pleasure, but not twice the effort to care for, especially if you're adopting a pair of healthy, altered adults from a good rescue group or shelter. While most bonded pairs of cats will happily share everything from your bed to the cat tree, one thing many will insist on is not sharing a litter box. To keep your cats from thinking outside the box, have one litter box for each cat, plus one more.
It's well worth the modest extra effort, though. If there's anything better than one loving cat in your home, it a pair of purring pals.
Sometimes cats really
are stuck in trees
Q: When cats get "stuck" up a tree are they really stranded? Seems to me if they got up there, they can get themselves back down. -- via email
A: Not easily, they can't. Cat claws are designed to move a cat in a forward direction. And if that direction is up a tree, it's difficult to head back down. The gracefully powerful movement of a cat heading up a tree is counter-balanced by the crashing and (if he's lucky) controlled free-fall he'll use to get down.
Most cats do find their way back down, of course, which is a good thing these days. With municipal budgets being what they are, few fire departments are allowed to respond to "cat-in-tree" calls anymore.
At our Almost Heaven ranch we have barn cats -- typically, former ferals who just wouldn't be happy inside and aren't comfortable being cuddled. We provide food, shelter and top-notch care, and in return they keep our barn free of vermin.
The deal has gone pretty well over the years, but twice I've had a barn cat stuck up a tree, most likely chased there by a coyote or wolf (we see both up here in Idaho). Both times I've had to help the cats descend: Once by cutting the tree down and more recently by paying for a bucket truck. Both cats survived, although both were pretty hungry when they got back down to earth.
If you do decide to get out a ladder for a cat stuck in a tree, though, be very careful. The chances of you getting seriously hurt while reaching for a scared cat are pretty good. Scared cats aren't safe to handle, even if they're yours, so wear heavy gloves if you are going to attend a rescue.
You may be able to whet his appetite by opening a can of tuna, salmon or mackerel and letting the wonderful fishy smell drift upward. I've had it work more times than not. -- Dr. Marty Becker
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.)
Dogs can catch
a yawn from us
-- Yawning is contagious among people, and researchers from the School of Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London have shown for the first time what pet lovers have known all along -- that dogs can also catch our yawns. Researchers said the presence of contagious yawning in dogs suggests that dogs possess the capacity for a rudimentary form of empathy.
-- Not all cats like catnip. The ability to appreciate the herb is genetic, with slightly more cats in the fan club than not. These hard-wired preferences aren't immediately apparent, though, since kittens under the age of three months don't react to catnip at all. Among those cats who do like catnip, you'll find two basic kinds of reactions: Your cat may seem to become a lazy drunk, or a wired-up crazy. Credit a substance called "nepetalactone," which is found in the leaves and stems and causes the mood-altering behavior.
-- Airplanes are increasingly hitting birds, alarming regulators because collisions can cause fatal crashes and damage jets. The number of bird strikes reported to the Federal Aviation Administration has grown every year since 1990, when there were 2,051 strikes. A total of 95,000 bird strikes have been reported to the agency since 1990, and the culprits, in decreasing order, are Canada geese, mourning doves and sparrows. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are affiliated with Vetsteet.com and also the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.