Many of us think of our pets like our children. After all, they rely on us for survival and provide us with a great deal of love and joy. And just as real parents often feel that a child should have a brother or sister to play with, dog and cat “parents” often have questions about pets and companionship. Do our furry friends need playmates of their own species? The answer isn’t as simple as you might expect.
If you’ve ever watched two dogs wrestling and rough-housing at the dog park, it’s easy to tell that canines enjoy playing with one another. But do they need that dog-to-dog companionship? Researchers have spent a lot of time exploring the topic, and their general consensus is no; contrary to what you might expect, dogs don’t require companionship from another dog to be content. They enjoy it, to be sure, but it’s not a crucial component for raising a socialized and well-behaved pup.
Researcher Adam Miklosi has spent a great deal of time studying the relationships of dogs with other dogs and dogs with humans. His research concluded that the dog-to-human bond is much stronger, mimicking that of a parent and child. If a dog receives ample love, affection and attention from his master, he’ll almost always prefer spending time with his master (or with a delicious chew toy) than with another dog.
What about the feline species? Do cats require the companionship of other cats? Speaking on behalf of the ASPCA, Dr. Jill Goldman and Dr. Pam Reid say, in so many words, it depends. Two cats can be great playmates, providing exercise and stimulation for one another. These two- or three-cat relationships are usually most successful when the cats are of similar age and temperament. But it can also go the other way. Some cats prefer to spend most of their time solo, and the sudden introduction of another cat can be a very stressful experience, resulting in bad kitty behavior.
So, as with dogs, the answer is no; cats do not need companionship from other cats, though some may enjoy it. Again, it’s the cat’s relationship with its owner that matters more in its overall quality of life.
If you’re able to add a second pet to your household, wonderful. But if you already feel your hands are full with a single dog or cat, there’s no need to feel pressure to add a pet “sibling” to the mix.
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