Monday, April 11, 2011

The Single Kitten

With the beginning of kitten season and busy kitten adoptions, I'm always presented with the question: 

"I only want one cat, will you adopt out a single kitten?"

Since I'm asked this question so many times per day (I've already had 3 adoption calls today with this exact question) I decided to write out my feelings an see if I can come up with a straightforward answer to this question.

In a perfect world, I'd like to think that every kitten would have a cat friend to play, sleep and eat with.  They seem so happy and well adjusted to be adopted in pairs.  I know of some rescues that will ONLY adopt kittens in pairs.

My philosophy is that until there are NO kittens in a high kill shelter being euthanized because nobody wants them, we MUST consider allowing kittens to be adopted into a single cat home. 

Look at the banner that I use for my blog;  3 perfect little kittens.  I took that picture.  ALL THREE of those kittens were euthanized at the peak of kitten season because there weren't enough homes or a rescue that could take them.  They're dead.  Gone.  Burned in a heap of other unwanted cats. 

I wish I could ask those kittens:  "If you could have a wonderful, loving home for the rest of your life, would you rather die here in the shelter, or be in a home as a single kitten?" 

Who are we to say that the kitten won't have a wonderful life as the Belle of the Ball?

Sometimes we get kittens that MUST be adopted together.  I had a feeling "Spring" and "Sprout" were bonded when they were at my house for an afternoon.  They sought out each other's company despite the fact that there were two other littermates in the room.  I wasn't 100% certain, until the pictures started coming in from the foster family:
These little guys are inseparable.  The foster Mom tells us that they eat, sleep and play together despite the fact that there are other cats in the home.  They will be adopted together.

We rescued one little girl from the shelter named "Luna":

Luna is totally indifferent to other cats.  She likes people.  She's being adopted tonight by a loving family who only want a single kitten.  It's nice when things are that obvious. "Doesn't want cat company = single cat" "Plays with other cats = needs a cat friend."

 We had an awesome young woman who lives alone interested in adopting one of our tiny kittens, but she works full time and is gone 2 or 3 nights per week.  I couldn't do it - one 8 week old kitten alone all the time isn't right - or is it?  He'd get a home that's Forever.  Isn't that a good thing? 

But sometimes it's not that obvious, and that's when we have to rely on our wonderful foster parents who live with the cats.  We have to remember that in a few months NOBODY is going to be rescuing from the shelters.  The simple truth:  There are too many kittens and not enough homes. 

This blog post is merely my opinion and I don't expect everybody to agree with me.  But I keep looking at those three kittens that I use for my blog banner and wonder what they would've wanted if somebody had asked them. 


Sparkle said...

Out of the three of us cats here, two of us - me and Binga - would have been perfectly happy as only cats. Boodie, I think, needs other kitties' companionship. And the cat before me was thrilled when my human's old cat died - she wanted my human all to herself! So I really think it depends on the cat, and the human's situation.

Karen said...

This is Freckles and NOT my mommy. I was the last of all the kittens when my mommy came to adopt me. She wanted a kitty to love and I wanted a FUR-EVER home. There was another kitty in her home for a while but he went off to school. Sometimes he comes back to play but I have MY mommy all the time. She takes me out in the garden with her, I travel with her, and most importantly I cuddle with her at night.... I would never have wanted to miss THIS FOREVER HOME. I even get a birthday cake on April 1st my birthday..... yum

Karen said...

From my perspective Beth, there can be NO UNILATERAL RULE.

There are some situations that call for a pair adoption, some for singles. Like everything else in life I think common sense rules. Some single cat adoptions will be to a home with another existing cat, some will be to someone that is home and able to give the time and attention deserving. Age is a factor too. Not the persons the cats. If two cats have been together forever and clearly are attached then a pair makes sense. If two kittens have a particular bond (like these ones) then it makes sense too. And if you look at the different varieties of situations in this response alone, you can see that no one rule covers them all.....

Go with your gut like you tell foster moms and decide based on the circumstances that present themselves in each situation. Use kindness,sensitivity and common sense; it is likely that your choice will be the right one.

Caroline said...

You are correct Beth, it is better to be an only kitten than a dead kitten! Except for extremely shy kittens, we can't be that choosy about adopting out only 1. I fostered 5 and luckily the 1 of the 2 shy girls had an adoptive parent who took both, but the rest went alone and would be fine. That 1 kitten saves 2 as another can be pulled from the shelter!

hmacross said...

I'm certain that you can't have one rule for this. Some cats need company, others don't.

When we set out to adopt a grey kitten for my son, we found one (Louise) that he said "had the look". We applied to adopt her, but because we couldn't commit to 2 cats, and didn't have any other pets in the house, we were turned down. Almost a year later, I was helping a friend look for a cat, and saw Louise's photo on petfinder. She had not been adopted, my heart just broke for her as she was over a year old, and was surely being passed over for a 'cute kitten'.

After having Shadow for a week, my husband said "do you think he needs a friend?", and we set out to find another kitten.

Kitty said...

Those poor kittens in your header. My heart aches for them. I think that it is a difficult question to answer but if someone wants a single kitten it would be better than to have that kitten killed.

Kitty xxx

ArtemisiaFSS said...

Well I think they would have wanted to live even if it meant in a single cat home and some cats prefer being only cats but I love watching my cats interact with each other. ~Alasandra

Lory and Co. said...

I always wondered who those kittens were, and felt sick to my stomach to learn they were killed. I agree, a single kitten is much better than a dead kitten.

Anonymous said...

Why you should adopt TWO kittens??

Most cats, despite their age, are highly social and are happier living with other cat companions. This makes them better pets, which results in happier owners. Kittens are no exception.

Adopting a single kitten or young cat is not a good idea. Trying to keep a single kitten occupied, stimulated, safe and happy while also going about the business of everyday life is much more of a challenge than it may seem upon first consideration.

Kittens want and need interaction with others of their own kind for healthy social development. A kitten learns a lot in the first several months of life from its mother and littermates. Separating a kitten from its mother is often a necessity in order for it to be adopted, but taking it away from its littermates and isolating it can delay the kitten's development emotionally, socially and sometimes physically. Kittens that are able to remain with one of their littermates or a similarly-aged companion, tend to be healthier and happier, and in the long run, better socialized pets than those who are isolated from others of their kind at an early age.

With that in mind, please think long and hard about forcing a kitten to become an only child. Mother Nature knew what she was doing when she created kittens in litters!

Anonymous said...

Young kittens be adopted in pairs unless you have an existing kitten or young cat at home. This policy is NOT based on a desire to increase our number of adoptions. Rather this ensures that the kittens we rescue, nurture, and love are adopted into homes that offer the best possible environment for their social development. We understand that some people will still want to adopt a single kitten. Most rescue groups have similar policies regarding kittens. Thus, we suggest you adopt from a local animal shelter where kittens may not otherwise find any home.

Anonymous said...

I started out with one cat that I thought needed a friend. I adopted another cat and they never got along. Both of them enjoyed being alone. I started doing fostering and have had 27 cats. My original cat has not played with even one of them. One of my current fosters would probably be very happy with no other cats in her life. She wants all the human attention she can get. I think you definitely need to go by your gut instinct and that of the foster parents. Some people cannot afford a second cat or don't have accommodations that will allow for a second but they will still provide a great home. A single cat is definitely better than a dead one.


Anonymous said...

OH MY GOSH...I totally agree..we have 2 rescued cats and trust me our dilute cali would be ECSTATIC to be an only cat, she only tolerates our orange tabby and somedays she doesn't even do that !!!! in fact she can be very MEAN to him, we feel sorry for him sometimes lol
I think cats are like people some are highly social, dependent on others meaning cats...others indifferent and some could care less either way. Who wouldn't want to be the complete center of attention ????
keep up the good work !!

Steve Bartlett said...

Except in rare cases, as a foster "dad" I would have no qualms about adopting out a single kitten, even if it would be left alone during work days and a few evenings out. Kittens quickly grow into cats, and I think they would adapt fairly quickly to being alone for extended periods provided their basic needs (food, water, comfy couch) are satisfied. As a foster home I often have the opposite problem: adult cats who have been "only cats" all their lives, suddenly thrust into an environment with lots of other cats, plus three dogs. They're the ones I feel sorry for :)

Anonymous said...

Not every single kitten stays a single kitten! I adopted Murphy when I was 20. I was. In school, in my first apartment, I had a job and a boyfriend. I took Murphy with me everywhere I could and my roommate was home when I was not. A year later, Peanut came to live with us and Murphy had a best friend. I didn't start with 2 cats because I knew I could take on the responsibility of 1 cat, but wasn't sure about 2. Both were with me for 19 years, I lost Murph 2 years ago last month and Peanut last fall. Not every situation is cut and dried.


Heather said...

My comment is no different than the others, but I thought I'd chime in anyway. Never feel guilty for giving a kitty a home. Never never never. If this were a perfect world, maybe we could be choosier. But this is not a perfect world (and how).

selkie said...

it really does depend on the circumstances and the cat. When younger, I had just one cat - my Tigger - because as a university student putting myself through school - that was what I coudl afford. Spaying/neutering, yearly shots, healthy food - when money is tight- it is better to take care of ONE cat properly then TWO cats badly! Tigger lived to 20. My Rags came along and she was a 'singleton' until I fostered a kitten who had been severely abused - and of cousre he stayed. Now I have 4 rescues - but 2 of those would be happy on their own. So no hard and fast rule!

Anonymous said...

It's such a loaded question. And, as you've said, it's not as easy as "alive vs dead". I can't even imagine sending an 8 week old kitten from a situation where it's got littermates and constant companionship, to a home where not only is he the only kitten, but there's not even human companionship for most days. I imagine the loneliness and boredom would be awful. A 2 year old cat? Much less so.

I have two fosters right now, about 4 and 5 months, respectively. Brunswick, I would let be a single cat. He likes other cats fine, but he's more into people. Trixie, on the other hand, would be desolate without a kitty friend. She's completely indiscriminate - if another cat is near her, she goes over and runs her head and shoulders along it as she walks by. If she sees another cat snoozing, she goes to join them. Yes, she adores people, but she clearly craves critter companionship, too. So she has to have a friend. (I'd actually consider a friendly dog an option!)

At least one of my own cats would be thrilled to be an only. We had 6 maniacal foster kittens running around for a while, and she was underwhelmed, to say the least. ;)

Julie said...

Adopt Corduroy! that's the answer. Forget the kittens, they grow up to cats anyway! LOL
You're right in everything you say. I think another factor that should be considered is whether or not the adopter has ever had his/her own cat. People who may never have owned one, think they'll adopt one and see how it goes. That's a mistake. Why not take 2 bonded and try that? They'll probably want another cat in a year and then it will be more difficult to introduce a new one.

Anonymous said...

Also, have you ever tried laughing and saying "oh, you do NOT want a single kitten! Two kittens will entertain each other when nothing is going on. One kitten will try to find some way to entertain itself, and that never ends well! It's like leaving a toddler alone overnight in a toy store!". I've said that to a couple of friends, and they at least got shocked into considering it.


Anonymous said...

There are a couple good reasons for people to consider adopting two:

To the earlier poster's points - one cat will often cause more kerfluffle as they try to entertain themselves (e.g. scratching furniture, unpotting my potted plants) than two would.

It's often hard to introduce a buddy later, and much easier to start with two who like each other. Even if the introduction goes well, it does take a bit of work to introduce them properly, with separate rooms, etc.

Finally, one other thing that sometimes gets overlooked is that two cats are not a lot more work than one. I've had more than 30 fosters and 7 owned cats, and the work is only greater with 2 than 1 if they get sick (usually when they're old). Day to day, it's a few more seconds feeding and cleaning the litter box. It might actually be less work with two, because with one I've always played with more to keep them active, stimulated and entertained.

All that said, there are definitely cats who prefer to be "only cats", and people who will provide great environments for a single cat.

Given there's such an oversupply of cats who need homes, it just seems like common sense to allow adoptions of single cats or kittens. The big caveat to that, is that it's our job as foster parents and rescue workers to make sure as much as possible that the cats being adopted alone are those who prefer to be only cats, and that we don't create stressful or negative situations like taking a young kitten away from the calming and socializing littermates.

Whew! Sorry for the long post. Beth, I agree that it's a complicated topic and writing it down helps!

Kim said...

Oh Beth, I'm never going to be able to look at your banner again. I just cried for ten minutes after reading they didn't make it.

We found our first cat in a "free stuff" ad online and I had to have him. He is overactive and a trouble maker, but he is also always happy to see me and bonded to me. He walks around the house caterwauling and came from a multicat first home, so when my husband suggested we adopt him a friend, I was overjoyed (I would adopt them all if humanly possible or allowed by my hubby). We brought home the second cat about a month ago. Both cats would be happy to be single kitties.

If they'd been brought home as kittens together, would it have been different? Maybe. But I do think that kitties have personalities and some like others, some don't. And if you can give a kitten a chance by sending him or her home by his/herself with a caring new family, then I think that is the better outcome than a two month life.

I've just made myself cry, but I also made my point.

And let me thank you again, profusely, for what you do Beth (and other rescuers).

Helen said...

What a wonderful job you do Beth....I can`t even imagine how stressful it is trying make the right decision, even though you`re a seasoned rescuer and kitty home finder. I know what anguish I went through trying to decide for Arthur....he should be the ONLY cat and now he`s in a home with 3 other animals and happy as a clam (saw Jane yesterday). I think most people start out with just one cat (kitten). I did with Calvin and he certainly wasn`t happy about the other two arrivals later on, but he hasn`t had to go to a kitty psychiatrist yet. Like you told me....go with your gut - worked for Arthur!. Keep up your amazing work and think about all the amazing ``right`choices you have made.

Anonymous said...

Simon says,

I was adopted as an only cat in what was formerly a multi-cat household. I'm a good boy. I love people, and people love me. I don't like other cats. I'm okay with dogs, and maybe I'll have a dog friend someday. But no cats. I seriously dislike them.

Thanks, Beth, for all you did for me. And there isn't a universal answer to this question, as far as I know. I'm told I had siblings before I was adopted. I wish them well, but I don't feel the need to see them again. ;)

Anonymous said...

I adopted two rescue cats when they were 13 weeks old and around 3 years old one had an immune system disease that after $10,000 of fighting to keep her alive had to be put to sleep.

Now I want to adopt a kitten around 10 to 14 weeks old to be mentored and played with my other cat and my family, but the rescue agencies are saying they will not allow such an adoption and I should get a cat that is already mature.
This does not suit me because I want a cat that I can mold from a young age to fit with our family and be accepted by my other cat for various reasons including training to walk on a leash with a harness which my other cat(s) loves.
Also, my other cat is a dominant type and will certainly feel threatened by a mature cat but not so much by a kitten that would be more of a curiosity than a threat and would likely bring out her mothering instinct somewhat.

Anyway, I am stuck in Northern Virginia trying to find a kitten (preferably black to help with harder to adopt out percentages)and will not accept the only option is a mature cat concept.
In otherwords, it will either be what we want or nothing at all which sucks.
It is another example of how the two kitten rule is bad. We were required to adopt two the first time and did not even want but one at the time, and now we cannot get a kitten because we already have a cat and cannot afford to have 3 cats after busting our budget with the one we lost.

I am also working full-time at home so I have a heck of a lot of time to play and nurture my cats. They are my kids, especially since I do not have any children.
If there ever was a perfect situation for a single kitten it is my house.

House of the Discarded said...

Anonymous: Come on up to Toronto - I'd adopt a cute black kitten to you :)


Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous poster two posts up. I am pleased to announce that I am now the happy owner of a rescued energetic and loving little 10-week old black kitten.
My wife and I are looking forward to our next 15-20 years with her.
While my 3-year old cat might not be her perfect match in age, I am sure they will become good companions as they are slowly exposed to each other.
My cats will and do not want for anything and are truly part of my family.
Single kitten adoption certainly beats lethal injection.

Thank you Fancy Cats Rescue Group in Fairfax, VA.

Also thank you for writing this article.