I believe that the results of this study published in January 1, 2023, on the Cambridge University Press website are common sense and I also believe that the results shouldn’t deter animal shelters from insisting that two cats are adopted together when appropriate.
Sometimes it is common sense that when two cats are so friendly with each other because they’ve spent their lives together at their former home and because there is great chemistry between them, that it is essential that they are adopted together. To separate them would be very wrong.
But it is probably the case that in some shelters management decide that two cats should be adopted together when there isn’t a long history of them being together at their previous home in order to speed up adoptions and free up shelter space. There are pros and cons in that decision.
A decision is made and is an important one because the study demonstrates that, on average – when stripping out all the other influences and barriers to adoption – insisting that two cats are adopted together increased their stay at the shelter by three days or 42%.
And when the general public are told in advance that two cats or perhaps three (rarely) must be adopted together their stay at the shelter increased by 13 days or 185%.
There is, therefore, a trade-off between freeing up shelter space because two cats are adopted together versus clogging up shelter space because those two cats remain at the shelter longer.
It’s a “trade-off between longer adoption times and social bonding in shelter cats” to use the headline of the study.
There must be occasions when for shelter staff there is absolutely no choice but to insist that two cats are adopted together because to not do so would be very detrimental to their health and well-being as their bond is so strong.
The point of the study, as I understand it, is that there are examples where there is some discretion and flexibility in the assessment and on these occasions the shelter staff have to weigh up the pros and cons and whether they notify upfront that cats should be adopted together.
Advantages and disadvantages for the adopter in adopting a bonded pair
Taking a look at this topic from the perspective of the adopter, there can be great advantages in adopting a bonded pair. The big one, as mentioned by Jackson Galaxy in his book Total Cat Mojo is that it takes some of the responsibility away from the cat caregiver to entertain and mentally stimulate their cat. Each member of the partnership can entertain each other.
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And a bonded pair are more likely to integrate into their new home without difficulties because they have each other for mutual support.
For people new to cat ownership, one problem they report in shelter cats once they get them home for the first week or so concerns unwanted behaviour such as scratching and digging around. Two cats together who are great friends may help to minimise unwanted behaviour because once again they can entertain themselves by playing with each other.
Domestic cats don’t set up hierarchies in multi-cat homes but one cat might be more dominant than the other and in a bonded pair they have a settled relationship if one is dominant and the other is submissive.
Of course, there is the feeling of well-being that an adopter might experience when they adopt two cats together from a shelter because they have done something good with twice the impact.
Some shelters might give a discount in adoption prices if two are adopted together. It’s been found in a study by the way that if shelter adoption prices are reduced it does not have a negative impact upon the future of the cats once they are taken home.
And then we have a negative which is the added expense that the adopter will have to deal with when caring for two cats.
It is a big commitment to adopt a shelter cat and the commitment is doubled when bringing home a bonded pair but, depending upon the person, the upside is probably greater than the downside.
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