British Shorthairs are some of the most adorable cats out there. With their gloriously thick fur, round, friendly faces and gentle temperaments, it’s not surprising that you’d struggle to stop at just one. The temptation to take on two or more of these little charmers is very strong — but is it a good idea?
British Shorthairs — one or two? In general, it’s not a bad idea to take on more than one British Shorthair. Although cats of this breed do just fine on their own, they can really benefit from the companionship of other cats. Two BSH cats can keep each other entertained and provide stimulation when their human guardians aren’t around to play with or pet them. There are considerations when introducing more than one cat into the household, such as how you’ll handle friction between your cats.
- Why would a cat want another cat around?
- What happens if they fight?
- Are there any drawbacks to having a solo kitty?
- Does my British Shorthair need a friend?
You’ve landed on this page because you have questions about your current or future pets and their well-being. Read on to find some answers and resolve your concerns.
The British Shorthair: character and temperament
British Shorthairs — one or two? It’s true to say that the British Shorthair is one of the more independent breeds. They’re not clingy and tend not to want extended lap time with their humans. If you’re a single person who is out a lot during the day, or your household is busy with their lives and doesn’t have time to spend hour upon hour with the cat, I would happily recommend this breed as they do so well by themselves.
Your British Shorthair will be perfectly contented and won’t suffer if she’s left on her own while you’re out at work. The British Shorthair is a cool customer and very relaxed. If she’s provided with a reasonable degree of stimulation and attention when you are around and has plenty to entertain herself when you’re not (toys, a scratching post, perhaps a cat tree to climb) she’ll be fine.
That said, any cat may benefit from being part of a two-cat household. Although they aren’t packed animals in the same way that dogs are, cats are still fairly social creatures. The stereotype of Kipling’s “The Cat Who Walked by Himself” is rather an unfair one and falls down when you look at feral cat colonies out in the wild. Without humans around to care for them cats tend to form loose hierarchies, with communal kitten-rearing and a shared hunt. It’s quite natural, therefore, for your British Shorthair to benefit from having a friend around. Caring for two cats isn’t necessarily a lot more effort than caring for one and they can support and entertain each other.
Any anxiety about your absence will be alleviated by the presence of another cat. Two cats will also stimulate each other to be more active and lively in general, helping to offset the tendency of this breed to slow down and become less energetic as they grow out of young adulthood and get older. You will need to make certain accommodations, such as additional food bowls, water fountains and litter trays, to avert any territorial disputes, but most cats can be induced to get along and respect each other with a little help from their human guardians.
The two-cat household: some general points
A household with two cats does face a few challenges, even if those cats are British Shorthairs. Cats are territorial creatures — there’s simply no getting away from it. You need to respect this aspect of feline nature and work around it. First of all, you should avoid housing two males together. Even if they’re neutered, male cats tend to become aggressive with each other and jockey for position within the household. It’s not impossible for toms to get along but it does take work — why make things harder for yourself? Instead, get one tom and one queen or two queens.
It should go without saying that all your cats must be neutered and spayed; besides the benefits to their health, de-sexing your cats makes them more companionable and less likely to fight. (If you buy from a good breeder they will already have had the cats fixed, but the point bears repeating.) If you have two cats, you need to ensure that they have plenty of space and that access to potential conflict hot-spots is minimised. That means getting at least one extra of everything. Your cats should have their own separate food bowls; you don’t have to provide more than one pet water fountain but you should set out at least a couple of additional water dishes so that everyone can get a drink. Provide two beds — many cats will be the happiest cuddling up together but some will absolutely hate it. Avert squabbles over sleeping arrangements by making sure that each cat has their own bed, located a discreet distance apart.
Make sure that you have two scratching posts and ample toys for both cats to play with. Perhaps the most important item to remember, though, is the litter-box. The golden rule is that the number of litter-boxes in a household should equal the number of cats, plus one. There’s simply no way around this: if you have two cats, you need three litter-boxes. Make sure all the boxes are of a good size, as this larger-than-life breed needs everything to be a little bit bigger than average.
Should you buy one or two kittens?
There are certain advantages to getting two BSH kittens rather than just one. Because you’re introducing both little cats at the same time the problem of territorial disputes is minimised — they’ll tend to sort things out between them, with one kitten assuming a dominant role. BSH kittens are very lively (to the dismay of those who hoped that the British Shorthair’s famously staid demeanour would be manifest in the kitten — sorry, that comes later) and can absolutely run you ragged with their need for attention and stimulation.
Two kittens will run around together, playing and scrapping and generally tiring each other out. Two kittens will also help keep each other clean via mutual grooming. As you’ll be buying your kittens from a responsible breeder, you will, of course, have the opportunity to find out about their parents and ensure that they come from a line that generally plays well with others. Ideally, you should be able to meet your prospective kittens before they join your family, which will give you a chance to gauge their temperaments and get an idea as to which two will get along the best; this advantage disappears if you buy your cats separately. On top of these benefits, the antics of two little kittens playing together are endlessly entertaining.
There are downsides too, naturally. You will need to pay twice as much (and purebred British Shorthair kittens are hardly cheap). Two kittens mean double the vet’s bills, with two sets of vaccinations and two rounds of chipping etc. It also means twice the food, twice the litter and so on. It’s really down to your personal situation as to whether you feel that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
Adding a second British Shorthair cat to your household
If you already own a British Shorthair who seems anxious or out-of-sorts when you’re around less, bringing in another cat as a friend can sometimes be helpful. In particular, if you happen to have an older British Shorthair who is slowing down a lot and seems to find everything rather tedious, introducing another, the younger cat can give her a new lease of life.
Older British Shorthairs are notoriously lazy but they do seem to perk up quite a lot when they have younger company; you can help your cat live a more interesting and healthier life by bringing in a more energetic fellow feline to shake things up. In general, older cats are fairly accepting of younger ones, especially kittens, but you should be careful when introducing the new cat.
Keep them separate initially so they can get used to each other sounds and smells, then let them meet through a baby-gate or pet cage, and then finally allow them to interact. You may see a little growling or irritation, especially at mealtimes. Meals should be taken together — this is important for creating a bond between the two cats — but at the same time, it’s very important to reduce friction during this crucial part of the day. A wise owner will provide separate dishes so that both cats aren’t trying to eat from the same bowl. This is also useful if the cats are on different diets, for example, if the older kitty is on a high protein/low-sodium diet for weight loss.
It’s also important that you as an owner spend time playing with your younger cat so that she doesn’t continually bother your senior kitty. A little playtime together is good but young cats can become pests if they’re not given another outlet for their playful instincts. British Shorthairs being the patient critters they are, your older cat may put up with a lot of harassment from the younger one; this doesn’t mean she’s happy with the situation, however. Make sure you have a couple of good solid play sessions with the younger cat, and the older if she wants to join in, so as to make sure everyone is properly tired out and disinclined to get into scraps.
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