Second Chance: The Social (or Not) Life Of A Cat

Dear Pet Column,

One of my cats passed away a few weeks ago and my remaining cat appears to be sad and lonely. Should I get another cat to cheer him up?

Sincerely,

Lonely Cat Momma

Savannah

Dear LC,

Sorry for your loss. And yes, the confusing story of The Lone Cat… 

On the one hand we have the solitary tiger hunting in the jungles; on the other is the social lion living in prides in grasslands. Are domestic cats more like tigers or lions? And, if your cat is more like a lion can you turn it into a tiger? Are cats happier with other cats around or soaking up all the attention themselves? Do cats get lonely without other cats around?

I am going to throw down some cat reality here. 

Dogs may have a reputation for being more social, but that is only because they hunt in packs. Although domestic cats are solitary in one sense – hunting and eating cats much prefer their own space – but apart from mealtime, most cats have social needs.

While some cats feel disdain for their own kind and must be the household’s only pet, feral cats form colonies and many pet cats befriend each other. In fact according to Dr. Leticia Dantas, D.V.M., M.S., Ph.D, of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, feral cat colonies have several complex social and cooperative behaviors such as caring for each other’s young:  “but strangers are usually not welcomed…the group is usually formed by a family line — a queen and some of her litter that chose not to leave, not newcomers.”

However, Dantas adds: “Domestic cats are a social species where cats are buddies because they really like each other and not because they have to be.” 

So generally – and next week we will talk about the many common exceptions – cats tend to be social. Still, cats are able to survive as solo creatures even if that isn’t their preference.

Back to your question, when a household cat dies, the loss leaves a void in both your life and your remaining cat’s life. Dantas recommends giving your cat (and yourself) time to grieve and stabilize. That may take a month or several months: “Cats form bonds, but they only crave the company of the cats they are bonded with, a bond cannot be transferred from one individual to another.”

Thus, bringing in another cat right away to ease your cat’s loneliness is not recommended. A new cat smell, looks, and acts different. Your cat knows this is not its buddy. Even though your bereaved cat is lonely, a new cat would only add stress for your pet as it would be considered an alien.

So give it some time, but when you both are ready, I will be waiting. 

My name is Savannah and I get along great with other cats and am currently living in a cat communal room here at Second Chance. I am only one year old and I am gorgeous and gentle and ready for a more glamorous life than what it has been so far…

Next week’s Pet Column will discuss how to best introduce cats.

Pluto

This week’s dog of the week is Pluto, a 10-month handsome, black-and-white Border Collie. Pluto gets along great with other dogs and enjoys playing with his many friends. This energetic, sweet boy has been getting better each day on leash training. Because of a rough first 10 months of life Pluto can be shy and timid when he first meets people, but is quickly learning the kinder gentler side of humanity…

 

Editor’s note: It’s no secret. The Telluride region is dog heaven. Well, pet heaven. Unless you are one of our furry friends who gets caught in the maw of neglect and abuse. Then heaven is on hold until Second Chance Humane Society comes to the rescue. Second Chance is the region’s nonprofit dedicated to saving animals’ lives and promoting responsible pet parenting and human-animal bond. In her weekly blog, executive director Kelly Goodin profiles at least one, generally two of the many animals now living at the no-kill shelter, Angel Ridge Shelter, a dog and a cat, hoping to find them loving permanent homes. The column is sponsored by Ted Hoff of Cottonwood Ranch & Kennel, who from time to time exercises his skills as a dog whisperer, partnering with Kelly and her staff to help train a particularly challenging animal.

Ted Hoff with Cabella & Wilbur

By the by, there is no better place to park your pup or get your pup (or adult dog) trained than Cottonwood whenever you head out of town (for locals) or are heading to town and staying somewhere that does not allow pets. Consider joining Ted’s Very Important Dog (VID) Club for added benies. (Details on Ted’s website.)

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shop are both located in Ridgway, but service San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat, or other Programs. View the shelter pets and services online: www.adoptmountainpets.org

Vetting the Vet: Dr. Michelle Dally, DVM, J.D. is Medical Director of Second Chance Humane Society. She also has a private practice, Dally Veterinary Medicine, 333 S. Elizabeth Street, Ridgway, Colorado. Her service area is  San Miguel Mesas, Placerville, Ridgway, Ouray, and Montrose. For more on Dr. Dally, go here.

Michelle & Wallowby

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Kelly Goodin

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