Choosing a companion for your cat
I frequently get questions from readers who are looking to add a new cat to their family. How do I find a cat that will be a good match for my cat? Should I get a cat who’s the same age as my resident cat, or should I get a kitten? Male or female? Will the resident cat accept the newcomer?
Whether it’s a companion for a single cat, or whether another cat in the household has passed away and left a void, adding a new family member is a big decision.
I wish I could give you definitive answers to all of these questions, but the reality is that while you can do some homework, ultimately, each cat’s unique history and personality will determine the outcome.
Ideally, we’d all like our cats to be best buddies who play together, groom each other, and snuggle together. Some cats will bond like that, others will get along but may not ever become close friends, and some cats are confirmed only cats who will never accept a companion. While there is no guaranteed outcome, there are things you can consider when adding a new cat to the family.
A cat close in age to your resident cat may be a better match than one that’s much younger or much older. Young cats do better with a playmate close to their own age. They will get frustrated with a senior cat who prefers napping to playing. Conversely, a senior cat may not appreciate a young cat or kitten disrupting her golden years.
A word of caution if you have an elderly cat who is ill: I do not recommend bringing another cat into the home until your resident cat has passed. The stress of a new addition to the family may aggravate your older cat’s condition, and could actually shorten his life.
Kitten or Adult
Kittens do better with other kittens or young cats in the household. They need to have an outlet for all that energy, and if they’re paired with an older cat, both cats may be very unhappy. This is the reason why many rescue groups adopt kittens only in pairs. Adult cats may do better with another adult close to them in age, or slightly younger.
Consider your resident cat’s temperament. If you have a timid cat, she would probably do better with a laid back, calm, mellow cat. A dominant cat will most likely do better with a self-assured, calmer cat. If you’re fortunate enough to have one of those happy-go-lucky cats who love everyone, she will probably get along with a cat from either end of the personality spectrum.
Temperament and personality can be hard to detect if you meet a cat in a shelter. Most cats are stressed in that setting and won’t show their true personality until they’ve been in a new home for several weeks and sometimes even years.
Size can make a difference, especially if you have a slightly dominant cat. The theory is that cats of similar size and build will accept each other more quickly. Try to choose a new cat who is the same size or slightly smaller than your resident cat.
Male (neutered) cats are generally believed to be more accepting of other cats, both male and female. Even though this has not been my experience, female cats may not get along as well with each other. I personally believe that gender, other than as a personal preference of the guardian, is the least important consideration when it comes to choosing a good match for your resident cat.
Of course, for many of us, a new cat just seems to find us. Or we fall in love with one on Petfinder, or at our local shelter. And even though on paper, the new cat may be a bad match, some of the best feline friendships arise out of these seemingly random meetings.
Regardless of how you choose your new feline companion, introduce the newcomer slowly. Proper cat to cat introductions will go a long way toward ensuring harmony in your home.