I adopted my first kitten as a companion for my dog, who was suffering from separation anxiety. The woman I adopted her from told me she was a “bottle baby,” which meant she didn’t have a mother and was raised on formula from a bottle by a kitten foster volunteer.
At that time, I didn’t know much about cat behavior and the words “bite inhibition” didn’t mean anything to me. I nicknamed my kitten Ms. Bitey because from the day I brought her home, all she wanted to do was bite and she would bite hard! I had a puppy before, so I knew that babies liked to bite, but she would draw blood and I couldn’t get her to stop. I would lock her in the bedroom just to get some respite from those teeth and claws. She didn’t grow out of it either. She continued to “play” aggressive with me until I fostered a litter of 6 kittens about a year later. Ms. Bitey was full grown then, and grouchy.
When kittens are around four-weeks-old, playing becomes a full-time obsession. They bite, scratch, bunny kick, roll around, swing from the ceiling and have a great time. It is through this type of play that they learn all about bite inhibition. Bite inhibition is a learned kitten behavior where a kitty regulates the force of the bite, because kitty knows from playing with its siblings how hard is too hard. If a kitten doesn’t have other kittens to play with, they don’t learn this and it’s up to you as the owner to teach them.
By the time the foster kittens were ready to be put up for adoption, I had noticed the most extraordinary change in Ms. Bitey. She finally had an outlet and would stalk and play fight with the kittens even though she was 5 times their size. She became gentler with me, she stopped attacking my legs and when she did give me a bite; it was a soft bite. Ms. Bitey finally learned proper bite inhibition!
The life expectancy of an outdoor cat is two to five years, this applies to both urban and rural dwellers. Outdoor cats are in mortal danger from cars, predators and disease. The life expectancy of an indoor cat is ten to fifteen years. For most owners, the decision to let their cats outside comes from a place of guilt; the feeling that you are depriving them, that kitty will be unhappy and bored if he is not allowed out; that he is unable to live a full and happy life if kept indoors.
For your average apartment dweller, having a second cat to keep company can totally eliminate these guilty feelings. Every day I leave for work knowing that although my animals will spend the next 10 hours in my small one bedroom, they may have a better day than I do. They have games they play, sunny places to nap, food to eat, birds and squirrels to watch, cat trees to climb, and other furry bodies to cuddle or attack depending on their mood. They have great lives and it doesn’t matter the size of their home, or that they aren’t allowed outside.
There are some cats that prefer to be solitary animals, but in general, life is better with a buddy and this applies to pets too. The idea that having more than one cat makes you a crazy cat lady is silly and contradictory to the truth of the matter, cats are happier in pairs. Having two cats means more food, litter and vet care, but it also makes some things easier on you as an owner. Your cat will be in a better mood, get more exercise and be happier to see you when you return home. They are also pretty cute when they play and snuggle together, they will entertain you nonstop!