7/27/2022 | By Kari Smith

Writer and pet owner Kari Smith examines the question, do pets need a companion? If you’ve wondered if a second pet would be appropriate for your one-pet household – for dogs and cats – Smith has some answers.

For those of us who appreciate animal companionship, a pet is the perfect roommate. As a busy one-pet owner, you may wonder at times if your pet is getting enough attention. Additionally, changes in an your health – such as the inability to take long walks with your pet after illness, injury, or surgery – may cause concern that your pet is not getting enough exercise.

For some types of small pets, such as fish, parakeets, or rats (yes, they make great pets!), adding a second may be an easy answer. For four-legged animal owners, getting a second pet as a companion for the first may be a bit more complicated, but it still may be rewarding.

Here are some reasons to get a second pet.

They will entertain each other.

senior man on beach with two dogs - photo by Amy Lutz, Dreamstime. Do pets need a companion? If you’ve wondered if a second pet would be appropriate for your one-pet household, we have some answers.

I hadn’t considered getting a second dog until an acquaintance mentioned needing to rehome a dog. “You don’t want another one, do you?” I really didn’t, but the more I thought about it, the more the idea intrigued me. As a busy person who did not always spend as much one-on-one time with my pup as I would like, it actually seemed like a good idea.

Now, having a second dog keeps both of them entertained. They frequently play together, nap side by side, and bark at squirrels together (although I’m not sure if that part is helpful …). Having a second animal is great if you find that your current pet is experiencing separation anxiety – especially if you have regular engagements that keep you away for an extended time.

For cats that are left on their own for long periods, an additional cat can provide company. “Sociable interaction with another cat can greatly enrich their daily lives,” says RSPCA Australia. Their chances of getting along are better if they are introduced when both are younger. After about two years of age, acceptance is less certain. However, “they will very rarely totally reject another cat in the long-term. After a time even those cats that do not become great friends can still learn to tolerate and live with each other by keeping to their own territory.”

When new cat housemates aren’t warming up: advice from an animal expert

Dogs can provide each other with additional exercise.

For dogs, the physical interaction may be immediate and ongoing. I noticed immediately that having a companion increased my pup’s exercise time greatly. The two dogs together raced back and forth along the fence line. They chased each other until a bare-dirt “race track” appeared around my back yard. They ran, wrestled, and in general kept each other moving. Getting a sufficient amount of exercise keeps a dog healthy and prevents boredom and resulting destructive behaviors. Depending on the age and breed of your dog, it can be time-consuming and physically taxing to be sure your dog gets all the exercise it needs, so having a second dog to help with this task can be highly beneficial.

They can learn from each other.

This could be a good or bad thing, depending on your pets’ habits! It is great to have a puppy learn from an older, well-mannered dog. For example, a pet may learn to be crated more easily if he is following an older animal into the crate and not sleeping alone. A kitten may more easily learn to use a litter box from an older cat.

Are you ready for a second pet?

Woman hiking, with two dogs. Photo by Ivan Child, Dreamstime. Do pets need a companion? If you’ve wondered if a second pet would be appropriate for your one-pet household, we have some answers.

Before I agreed to take on a second dog as a companion, I told her owner that I wanted to try not just one play date, but several. I wanted to make sure that the two dogs’ personalities were compatible. It took a little bit of checking out each other, but it didn’t take long before I realized something: the second dog was giving my dog the exercise and entertainment that I could not.

Of course, keep in mind that a second pet is not a substitute for your interaction with it, but will enrich the time where you are not available for play and attention.

Before you get a second pet, consider:

  • Be sure to experiment first. Your pet may be perfectly happy being an “only child,” especially if it has been alone for a while or is older. You may want to foster a second animal – or even have a trusted friend bring over their pet for an extended stay. You may find that it seems too overwhelming for you, and you will want to figure this out before committing to a second pet.
  • Be sure you have the resources to care for two. Although some things – like toys, brushes, grooming supplies, etc. can be shared, costs such as food, collars, leashes, medications, and vet visits will double.
  • Be sure you are allowed to have two pets. If you live in a senior community or apartment home, be sure that you having a second pet is acceptable.
  • Be sure that your animals are spayed or neutered.

In addition to all of these benefits, having a second pet as a companion for number one may give you the chance to adopt and give a home to a pet who needs a loving owner. Be sure to bring along your pet to meet any new prospective “brother” or “sister,” and any shelter employee will likely have information on whether or adoptable pets are good with other animals.

Lastly, get ready to give – and receive – double the love!

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith