Single Kitten Syndrome (also called Single Cat Syndrome) is a hot-button issue among feline owners.
If you’ve been considering adopting a cat, you’ve probably come across the term already.
While Single Kitten Syndrome isn’t actually recognized as a symptom in the scientific or medical community, it is an anecdotal grouping of behaviors that can occur in kittens that are the only cat in the house.
Below, we’ll discuss what it is and whether it’s even a real thing.
We’ll also talk about some tips to treat it, if necessary.
What is Single Kitten Syndrome
Before we get into whether or not Single Kitten Syndrome is real, let’s talk about what it means when people refer to it.
Whether or not it’s a true syndrome, the symptoms and behaviors associated with this relatively newly coined phrase are real.
Single Kitten Syndrome is the name for a collection of behaviors that many have associated with cats living in a one-cat household.
We’ll be talking about these behaviors below, but what this syndrome boils down to essentially is a lack of proper socialization.
Cats learn to be cats both instinctively and from one another.
At just a couple of weeks old, kittens are already roughhousing, biting, scratching, and clawing.
In addition to playfighting, kittens learn other cat things from the other cats and kittens in their group like how to litter train a cat and how to interact with other cats.
Kittens adopted into a home with no other cats, single kitten syndrome proponents say, will eventually begin to show inappropriate behaviors as adults because they have not learned how to properly be a cat.
Symptoms of Single Kitten Syndrome
The symptoms of Single Kitten Syndrome are easy to spot.
In general, the symptoms are all extensions of the same two issues – attention-seeking and boredom.
- Pestering Other Pets
- Picky Eating
- Keeping Owners Up at Night
- Excessive Vocalizing
- Inappropriate Elimination
- Excessive Energy
Is Single Kitten Syndrome Real
Is it real? Well, sort of.
As stated above, kittens learn how to be cats from other cats
Without being part of a feline group, some kittens – some kittens – can end up exhibiting the behaviors I just listed.
However, not all kittens will grow up to be ill-behaved.
It all depends on their in-born personality and how much attention they get at home.
Is It Cruel to Have Only One Cat
No, it’s not cruel to adopt one kitten.
However, it requires much more work on your part to ensure that your kitten gets the attention she needs in order to grow up to be a well-adjusted cat.
Kittens are little bundles of energy. They love to play, and they are constantly looking for physical and mental stimulation.
If you adopt one kitten, you’ll need to be prepared to put in lots and lots of time.
Lots of playtime and TONS of socialization are the two keys to raising a well-adjusted cat.
Think of raising a kitten like raising a puppy. Introduce her to all kinds of stimuli.
Get a leash and harness, and start taking her for walks – yes, you can walk a cat.
Introduce her to other cats, dogs, rodent pets like hamsters and gerbils, other people, and anything else you can think of. Expose your kitten to all types of sounds from loud to soft.
Prepare her for the great big world. The biggest mistake new kitten owners make is treating their kittens like cats.
How to Prevent Single Kitten Syndrome
The best way to fix Single Kitten Syndrome is to prevent it altogether.
However, the good news is that fixing the issue is essentially the same as preventing it in the first place.
All of the tips below can be used proactively to prevent Single Cat Syndrome AND they can be used to fix the issue.
Adopt Two Kittens
We’ll talk about this in a second, but adopting two kittens is actually one of the best ways to prevent the syndrome, and bonus: it’s actually LESS work.
Adopt a Second Kitten or Cat
If you didn’t initially adopt two kittens, and your kitten or cat has begun exciting signs of Single Cat Syndrome, adopt a second kitten of approximately the same age.
Some people recommend getting a cat of the opposite sex.
Remember to spay and neuter, or you’ll end up with more kittens than you bargained for down the line.
Be Your Kitten’s Playmate
If you have one kitten, you’ll have to be the primary playmate.
Get tons of interactive toys like feathers on sticks and other toys that allow you to interact with your kitten.
Kitten-sized plushies are great, as well, because you can “fight” with your kitten by using the stuffed animals.
Play hide and seek and pounce games with paper bags, towels, and cardboard boxes with holes cut into them.
Tire your kitten out at least three times a day, playing with her until she decides she’s had enough.
A Cuddly Sleeping Spot
Give your kitten a cuddly sleeping spot that is safe, warm, and soft.
Your bed is an awesome sleeping spot for your cat, provided you aren’t allergic and you don’t care about hair in your bed.
Outside of that, a cozy kitten igloo on your bed or beside your bed is an excellent choice.
Provide a cat-sized stuffed toy for her to sleep with, as well.
Kittens, and even adult cats, need a lot of environmental enrichment.
If you have a nice, big window, place a cat tree next to it and place a bird feeder outside the window.
It’s instant “Kitty TV!”
In addition, bring home all kinds of new places to play and hide like cardboard boxes, shopping bags, and other containers that your kitty can hide and play in.
Keep a TON of toys on hand so you can rotate them out, keeping your kitty from growing bored.
One Kitten vs. Two Kittens
Now we come back around to the idea of raising one kitten vs. raising two kittens.
Which is probably why you initially tried to figure out what Single Kitten Syndrome is.
Here’s the good news:
If you really want to ensure that your kitten doesn’t develop the bad habits that full under this syndrome’s umbrella the easiest way to do that is to simply adopt two kittens.
Why would you want to adopt two?
Well, outside of doing away with Single Kitten Syndrome altogether, it’s actually EASIER to raise two kittens.
Yep. It’s easier.
Unlike puppies, kittens are actually less work when they’re paired up.
Refer to the list of tips on how to prevent this syndrome above.
If you read through them all, you’ll see that raising one kitten requires a lot of your time.
It requires even more time than raising a puppy because puppies tend to sleep a lot.
Kittens? Well, kittens are sort of like the Tazmanian Devil on Looney Toons.
When you adopt one kitten, you must be the primary playmate, stimulation provider, and all-around everything to your kitten.
However, when you have two kittens, they can be each other’s buddies.
In addition, they are actually easier to train to the litter box, as well.
While kittens are naturally drawn to a litter box, having a buddy helps them remember where to go do their business.
With two kittens, your two little furry family members can tire themselves out together, leaving you the ability to go to work or go out guilt-free, then come back home and give both your kittens tons of cuddles and love.
The entire time, you’ll be secure in the knowledge that your cats are keeping each other company, never sad, and never lonely
It’s a win all the way around.
Lastly, buying supplies for two kittens really isn’t much more expensive than buying supplies for one kitten.
In fact, it might actually be less when you consider the number of toys you’ll need to buy for your kitten if she’s the only cat in the home.
Kittens and cats don’t need a lot of toys when they have each other to wrestle with.
Dogs do fine on their own, so why don’t cats?
At this point, you might be wondering how this can be true?
After all, dogs in a single-dog house tend to be well-adjusted, by and large. However, consider the contrast between cat and dog life.
Even a dog who is the king of his castle will be taken on walks where he’ll meet new people and other dogs.
He’ll often be taken to dog parks. He’ll go to the vet wearing a harness or collar, and not in a carrier.
Dogs are incredibly easy to socialize simply due to their day to day activities.
Comparatively, cats are mainly indoor creatures who never go outside, never see other cats or animals, and rarely interact with anything outside of their own home environment.
Single Cat Syndrome Example
Many shelters actually have people adopting only one kitten sign a waiver stating that they recognize that this syndrome could become an issue if they only adopt one kitten and not a pair.
But is Single Cat Syndrome real, or is it simply a way for shelters to adopt out more cats?
There are varying ideas on the subject and today, we’re going to talk about it, if it’s even real, and how to treat it if you kitten exhibits this syndrome’s symptoms.
In my view, this is an extremely important topic because when the subject of this syndrome is broached, it can cause people who aren’t ready to take on two cats to simply not adopt at all.
For example, Reddit user, SonOfLan and his wife were considering adopting a cat, but their local adoption agency told them they had to sign a waiver about the syndrome.
According to the staff, kittens who don’t have another kitten to play with develop a slew of bad behaviors (aggression, destructiveness, etc.) that they may never grow out of. I have never heard of this and it sounded like something someone made up to push more kittens out of the door.
He and his wife weren’t certain that they could handle the work of two cats, and now they’re reconsidering adopting a cat.
Education leads to the ability to make the best decisions, so let’s get into it.
Preventing single kitten syndrome is easy. Although it’s not a recognized condition, the behavior that go along with single kitten syndrome are very real
Fortunately, it’s easy to prevent the issue. Just adopt two kittens.
It’s actually less work than owning one kitten, and there’s really nothing more fun than watching two kittens play with one another.
That’s why so many people watch cat videos!
I have found the two kitten plan good with kittens even one old one young, but my experience with ONE KITTEN is not the best idea as mentioned in your article
I agree Donna sometimes you need a little buddy for your kitten when you don’t always have the time and energy to play with them…they can be a handful at times lol
I think raising two kittens at the same time is genius. Kittens are so full of energy. I don’t think any family could give them as much playtime as they need to truly be happy.
Kittens have more energy than any other pet I’ve ever seen. I can see how having a buddy with the same amount of energy would keep them happier.
We had a single kitten long ago who grew up to think she was a small human with more fur. Later, she wasn’t thrilled when we adopted another cat.
i I think that’s probably because she was used to being the the queen of the house so to speak and you folks probably gave her a good amount of attention but overall two or more kittens or cats are best I think I have gone through this experience and I just really think .. so much fun to watch them play and wrestle and sleep together and they have one of their own kind to be their buddy and friend and family.. as well as having their human family.. it’s just better overall..
If we ever got a cat, I would want to get more than one. We are unable to do that with our dog since she’s anti-social.
I have to admit I didn’t know this was a thing so it was interesting to read and learn about it and how to treat it should it happen.
Aww I hate for any animal to be the only one in the house – that’s why we adopted two brothers.
Interesting. I have never heard of this before. I think sometimes when you get just one cat, they get pretty bored.
I’m a kitten lover but I’ve never this before but this is so interesting to read that gives me learning. Awesome post!
I always make sure my animals have a buddy. it really makes a difference in their attitude.
Thanks for sharing the information. I wasn’t aware of this before.
Kittens are just the cutest. I didn’t know about single kitten syndrome though. Thanks for sharing the facts.
I love cats. I have two of my own and they’re actually brothers. They were rescues and we just love them. I could never have a single pet because I always fear of them getting lonely.
I had no idea this was a thing. Cats are so precious!
It makes sense that two kittens are easier than one! I know a lot of people who get two kittens or puppies at a time.
Two kittens is enough more than that will make me crazy ??…i love kittens their are more energetic than puppies… thanks for sharing this
Thanks for bringing up this argument. I was glad to learn more about it!
My daughter has three cats! Two older cats and one kitten.
Not sure if my first comment went through. It was my daughter was three of them!
I’ve had single and more than one cat. Most of the cats were adopted so they weren’t babies. I was never forced to sign anything but animal care has come a long way.
I can see where a baby kitten who was pulled away from mom too early could have problems. But that would be hard to know when adopting. Like you mentioned, you can always add a second kitten if necessary.
Thank you for posting info on this.my ‘kitten’ only had 1 kitten in her litter.by week 2,she already was throwing the baby up in the air.we had to take over feeding her.now that time had passed, the baby has most if not all the symptoms you listed. she is very aggressive and won’t use a litter box to save our lives. Is there any way that i can reverse these symptoms after they already occured? She has already been shown lots of attention and there are other cats in the household,4 in total(including her and the momma).thanx
I am now having such regrets at only getting one kitten! he is 8 months now and still hasn’t grown out of his destructive behaviours and play aggression. he definitely lacks socialisation. i thought it would be too straining financially to have two kittens at the same time but after reading this article, the benefits of having two far outweigh any additional expenses. but its too late now!
Does anyone have any suggestions on what more i could do? I have already tried most of the suggestions in this article but he hasn’t gotten that much better (though there are improvements).
I am thinking of moving out into a bigger home in the future and adopting another kitten but i’m worried that its too late for socialising my 8 month old kitten.
I had a single kitten. He was extremely well adjusted. I got him at eight weeks I Exhausted him three times a day. this cat licked my neck and he would tap my head at 11:00 PM to go to bed. We shared a pillow. When I was out I put on YouTube videos with meditative cat music. He let me rub his belly. He was the most friendly cat. No put on YouTube video of interactive cat games . Unfortunately he died at two of cardiac seizure. don’t let them tell you that your cat will get this syndrome. I’ve had three solo cats and they were well-adjusted because of how I treated them.