- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Has your cat suddenly started demanding more attention from you than ever before? Maybe you’ve noticed changes in their daily habits, from higher or lower energy to eating more or less than usual. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s quite possible your cat wants more companionship—perhaps in the form of a feline friend.
Contrary to the popular belief that cats prefer solitude, domestic cats are socially flexible animals and do have social needs. Although they don’t necessarily need to live among other cats, many cats do enjoy the company.
Not all cats want to share resources and loving pet parents, but some cats may benefit from bonding with a feline friend. That said, if you can’t add another cat to your household, that’s OK! You can provide more human attention to meet your cat’s need for companionship.
9 Signs Your Cat Needs More Companionship
“A well-adjusted, single cat will engage in a number of different activities throughout the day, including sleeping, playing with their toys, grooming themselves, eating, and going to the litter box,” says author Zazie Todd, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in pet behavior.
“At times, you’ll see them looking very relaxed—for example, lying on the side showing their tummy or even their back,” she adds. “They will want to spend some time with you, but every cat is different. So, while some cats want to sit on your lap, other cats are just happy to be in the same room or on the sofa near you.”
Stephen Quandt, certified feline training and behavior specialist and founder of Cat Behavior Help, says a well-adjusted cat will show interest in life and their surroundings.
If you’ve noticed some of the signs below, however, your cat may need a friend to socialize with.
Cats who follow you everywhere—including the bathroom—and constantly want attention may need more companionship.
Another cat could provide them with the social interaction they need while playing and resting and ease these behaviors. This may prove especially beneficial for your cat if you’ve recently returned to work after months or years of working at home and keeping them company all day.
Does cat constantly nudge, knead, or groom you all of a sudden?
You might love receiving plenty of cuddles and affection from your cat, but these behaviors could mean they’re seeking a feline companion to reciprocate the grooming and snuggling.
A companion can help direct their attention elsewhere, which can help soothe this anxious behavior and prevent uncomfortable hair loss or skin inflammation due to overgrooming.
Litter box changes
A healthy and happy cat will use their litter box without any issues. If your cat begins to eliminate outside the box when you haven’t changed anything about the box’s placement, litter, or your cat’s routine, this may suggest stress or separation anxiety.
In some cases, the presence of another cat in the home may help reduce their anxiety and minimize messes outside the litter box.
Changes in eating can indicate boredom or depression. For instance, some cats may eat more when they feel bored, while others may eat less than usual when feeling depressed.
It’s no secret cats sleep quite a bit. On average, you can expect cats to sleep between 15 and 20 hours every day!
But a cat who spends even more time snoozing than usual may be feeling lonely—especially if they don’t sleep with you. A kitty companion can keep them company during the day, in their waking or sleeping hours.
Energy level changes
It’s fairly common for cats who feel depressed, bored, or lonely to show a sudden change in energy.
Where they used to spend a lot of time chasing toys and playing, they may spend most of the day stretched out in the sun. On the flip side, they could also become hyperactive, even destructive. For instance, you might notice new and unusual behaviors like knocking things over, shredding toilet paper, or scratching furniture.
If you notice these differences in your cat when nothing has changed in your home, it’s possible a feline friend could provide them with the companionship and enrichment they need to thrive.
Talking to you more
Some cats love to talk! But if you wouldn’t ordinarily describe your cat as “chatty,” an increase in vocalization, like meowing or yowling, could mean they’re lonely and need more attention and company. If that’s the case, a cat playmate could help them get the social interaction they need.
Past history with another cat
Cats can miss a former companion after a separation. This goes for kittens who’ve left their mother and siblings for their forever home, as well as adult cats after a feline companion has passed away.
Sometimes, cats who’ve always had a friend (or two) have a hard time adjusting to life as an only cat. If you’ve noticed lasting changes in your cat after the separation, adding another cat to your household could do a lot to improve your cat’s well-being.
Is My Cat Depressed?
Like humans, cats can experience grief, which may affect their overall behavior. After losing a companion, for instance, they might respond by hiding or with unusual aggression.
Quandt says it’s tricky to know whether a cat is depressed, since the only way to gauge their mood and emotional state involves observing their outer life and comparing it to the past when possible.
If your cat has always slept a lot, played only occasionally, and often picks at their food, these behaviors don’t necessarily point to depression, according to Quandt. But a cat who starts doing these things for the first time could be experiencing depression.
Key signs of depression in cats may include:
- Less interest in the world around them
- Loss of appetite
- Pretending to be asleep when actually awake
- Refusing to make eye contact
Quandt emphasizes that these signs can also point to medical issues, so it’s best to start by taking your cat to the vet.
Depression after losing a friend
In some cases, though, a cat’s depression may relate to loneliness or mourning the loss of a friend.
According to Quandt, cats come and go in nature. In a home environment, the cat left behind may not react quickly (unless they’re deeply bonded). They don’t know their companion isn’t coming back, so they often start out in a searching phase.
A cat missing their friend may pace and wander the house, sniff things and spend a lot of time listening, or meow more frequently, often loudly. Eventually, Quandt says, they may begin a grieving stage. In this stage, they might show various signs of depression, loneliness, and clinginess.
In these situations, Todd says it can help your cat to follow their regular routine, with one addition—more company from you.
“Let the cat tell you what they want,” she recommends. “Don’t assume they want more cuddles, but just be in the room with them more often.”
Bonded pairs are meant to be together
“Bonded” can have different meanings, depending if you’re speaking with a pet parent or behavior specialist, Quandt says.
Many pet parents describe cats who get along well as bonded, yet those cats may do all right apart. A behavior specialist, on the other hand, is more likely to describe cats as bonded if they deteriorate when separated, he says.
If you do have a true bonded pair, you won’t want to separate them. If one of the pair passes away, adding another companion may be an option, but Quandt emphasizes the importance of proceeding carefully.
He recommends respecting the loss your cat is experiencing, especially if they’re showing signs of grief or depression. Avoid adopting another cat too soon—and definitely not while the other cat continues to search or grieve. Your cat (and you!) both need time to recover from grieving before bringing a new cat home.
Signs Your Cat Doesn’t Need A Companion
If you have an older, fiercely independent, or relatively introverted cat, they’ll probably benefit more from your attention than that of another cat.
“It can be hard to know if a cat would like a feline friend,” Todd says. “Many cats are actually happy to be the only cat in the home and prefer things that way.”
She says cats who previously got along with other cats as kittens or in a previous home may do well with another cat.
But if your cat has never lived with another cat and starts to hiss, growl, or otherwise become upset when they see other cats outside, that’s a good sign they may prefer to be the only cat in your home.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to add another cat to your household—but you’ll want to do this carefully.
Introducing Your Cat To Another Cat
If and when it’s time for a companion, Quandt says it’s important to consider your cat’s temperament, personality, energy level, and age and choose a cat whose qualities complement theirs.
In short, if you have a senior cat, you may not want to bring home a kitten, and if you have a playful, energetic young cat, you might want to consider a cat who can keep up with them!
The two personalities don’t have to match perfectly, but they should mesh well. For example, a quiet and confident cat may do well with a nervous or shy cat, since the meeker cat could pick up some of the more outgoing cat’s confidence.
Steps for a successful meeting
When you’re ready to bring your new cat home, follow these steps for a smooth transition:
- Set up two separate spaces, each with their own litter box, water, food, beds, and toys.
- Rotate these sleeping spaces so the cats get used to each other’s scents.
- Allow the cats them to see each other through a screen or door that’s ajar, ideally while both are distracted—like while playing with a favorite toy.
- Feed the two cats at a distance until they’re comfortable in each other’s presence.
- Make a slow and gradual introduction, perhaps offering treats to help make a positive association with the meet-and-greet.
- Have short, supervised interactions to help the cats adjust to each other.
- Watch for any signs of stress and promptly separate the cats if they show any signs of aggression, like hissing or growling.
Quandt says if either cat shows a negative reaction to the other, the introduction is going too fast. Backing up a step or two can help make things easier for your cats.
“If you don’t think your cat needs a companion, then help enrich their life with play, climbing trees, tunnels, puzzle feeders, bird or fish videos, clicker training to learn ‘tricks,’ and of course, the most important thing, your love.”