Twice as nice – are two pets better than one?

“I didn’t realise I was lonely until Covid,” Michelle told us. “But I live by myself and lockdown wasn’t kind to my mental health. As soon as the restrictions lifted, I went out to adopt a cat – little did I know I’d be returning home with two!”

At first, Michelle said she had feared that two cats would mean double the trouble. But when she’d visited the adoption centre, she fell in love with two black siblings, Shakespeare and Hathaway, and didn’t have it in her heart to separate them.

Now, Michelle says she couldn’t imagine having just one. “Two cats is twice the love, twice the fun, and twice the cuddles,” she told us. “And they keep each other company now that I’m back at the office.”

At Lort Smith, our Adoption Centre staff and volunteers are very aware that our animals can develop strong relationships with one another, just as they do with humans, and we always aim to respect and celebrate that bond.

In practical terms, this means that if cats arrive at the shelter together, the staff aim to rehome them together. If a single cat is surrendered and the staff are told it is used to living with other cats, they try to find them a friend in the shelter. And if the cat develops a strong bond with that new friend, they try to rehome the two of them together, or at least find them homes where there are existing pets.

Why adopt two pets?

There are many benefits to having two pets in your home, whether you adopt them at the same time, or introduce them (carefully) to one another at a later date. These include:

  • Having a second pet means they can keep one another company. They can play together, exercise together, and get the mental stimulation they need even when you’re not around. Both cats and dogs can be destructive when they are bored or anxious – especially when they’re young – and having each other around can mitigate a lot of that boredom behaviour
  • Two pets can reduce the loneliness and separation that some pets experience when you are away from the house
  • Older pets can mentor younger ones. This is particularly the case for dogs, since they are pack animals. An older dog can teach a younger dog socialisation skills, toileting skills, behavioural habits and a sense of who, when and where to trust. It is always important to introduce new pets to one another carefully and gradually but, once they learn to trust one another, this “pack leadership” relationship can be very special
  • There’s not a lot more work for you in keeping two pets instead of one. It’s not a lot more effort to put food into two bowls instead of one; or scoop two litters instead of one; or walk two dogs at the same time

What’s the down-side?

The biggest barrier for some in keeping two pets is the cost of vet bills, food, and flea and worm treatments: there’s no getting around it that you’ll need to pay twice for these, so be sure you are comfortable that you can afford them before taking on a second pet. On the other hand, they can probably share their toys, beds, grooming products and water bowls, so not everything is doubled.

The other challenge to be mindful of is the amount of space you have in your home. This applies as much for cats and rabbits (do you have room for two litter-trays, scratch-towers, or tunnels?) as it does for dogs (is there room for two to run around in the back yard, or co-exist inside your house?).

Finally, do be aware that taking on twice as many animals means you will carry twice as many responsibilities. Both pets still need feeding, grooming, love, exercise, worming and vaccinations.

But if you have the capacity for this responsibility, the rewards are tremendous. Adopting two pets means you are giving twice as many animals the opportunity to have a safe and loving home with you, and there is twice as much love and fun to go around.

Action opportunities:

  • If you’re ready to adopt, Lort Smith has a number of animals in our shelter waiting for loving homes right now. Take a look at them here. Please don’t hesitate to talk to our staff if you’d like to consider or learn more about what it might mean to adopt two instead of one.
  • If you’d like to hear more about this process, such as the steps to take when introducing a new pet to an older pet in your home, let us know what you’d like to read in this blog by emailing us your ideas.