Conscious Cat

May 22, 2012 39 Comments

Choosing a companion for your cat

Posted by Ingrid

cat_to_cat_introductions

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.

Age

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.

Temperament

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

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.

Gender

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.

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39 Responses to “Choosing a companion for your cat”

  1. Nice post….. Sometimes emotion just takes over when you see a cute kitty, but it’s good to move slowly when adding a kitty .

    pawhugs, Max

  2. Absolutely excellent advice! It’s a topic we’ve covered in more than one article.
    I agree that one shouldn’t bring in a new cat where the resident cat is not well. I think the samer holds true for a senior cat. A senior cat who is known not to get along well with cats, or that has had no contact with other cats in many years, should probably be left to grow
    old as a solitary cat and not go through the often stressful introduction with a
    another cat.

  3. Great article…..Sam was an “only kitten” in a small cage by himself at the shelter when we adopted him twelve years ago and has never developed a rapport with another animal…..the few encounters he’s had with other cats were confrontational (they sensed his vulnerability and shyness and took advantage!) and at this point in his life, he will remain an only cat in our house. We keep him busy, active, and entertained though to the best of our “human ability”….it would be a stressful situation to introduce a companion (although I’d love to have a multi-cat household!). Now is just not the time.

    Thanks Ingrid!

    Pam (and Sam)

  4. Harry says:

    Great article, Ingrid! I’m glad when people ask me the question of “how do I know which cat will get along with mine” – because more often than not, someone wants a single kitten as a companion for their 10 year old cat, and I have to take a deep breath, a step back, and try to discuss why that likely won’t work well. I’m going to refer people to this article!

  5. PURRR-fect Ingrid….did I tell you Mark and I are “considering” an addition? Okay, Mark’s “considering” it…me?? I’m all in ; )

    Abby is such a shy kitty…and small (6 years old and a hair over 7 lbs). I’m thinking maybe TWO kittens…then they could play with each other?? I have agreed to wait until July…after vacation, so I’ll be home with them…..Oh and we also have a 12 year old lab mix (she’s just always gone with the whatever we bring into the house).

    Thanks for the info Ingrid….I’ll share it with Mark ; )
    ♥toni

  6. hmmm…great piece…it is no surprise to me that FEMALE cats are less accepting of other cats than males…case in point…human females in LIFE :)

    A great companion for a cat? A DOG! My cat and dog are the BEST of friends! They are also the same age and both males :)

  7. Bopeeps says:

    I know when I was trying to get a playmate for Lucy, they tried to convince me to get a male. They said a female/female would not get along. But I didn’t want any problem with spraying so I stuck to it and got a female.

    Lucy was about a year or so and Rikki joined her as a brand new kitten. After two days of hissing and growling from Lucy, she finally broke down and gaveRikki a “bath” and they have been “sisters” ever since.

    I wish I could have gotten Rikki’s other 2 sisters since she is a “happy go lucky” cat but I’m sure they got good homes.

  8. Ronnie says:

    WOW! No coincidences here. I have been looking at a cat on Pet Finder for over 2 months. Wondering, should I adopt a 2nd cat? My Kitty, (Russian Blue mix) of 23 yrs. passed Aug. 2011. I adopted Mandy, mid-Dec. 2011. She is a 7 yr. old Calico, in the shelter 2 mo. She had to be in a room by herself as so scared in a cage, hissisg, scratching. But she came right up to me on my lap, purring. So I adopted her. At first, yes, a “Cat from Hell.” She bit me bad twice. Hid. But so loved to be brushed…so I did. And Patience. After 5 weeks she was out * about the house, sleeping everywhere. I now know she was so very frightened. She now lets me pick her up a bit but is not a cuddly kitty that I so miss. But she now feels safe, always purring, winding around my legs. And I made a point to adopt a kitty, Mandy, that did NOT look like my deceased Kitty, although I love the Russian Blue’s disposition. OK…I am seriously thinking of adopting the Russian Blue mix kitty, age 2, I have been watching on Pet Finder. Called yesterday and I am to go see HER:) She is supposedly very sociable to humans and cats, lovable, all-over-you type, named “Lovey.” And TALKS, that I so miss. So, there would be a 2 yr. old and my 7 yr. old, both females. Mandy appears larger and she is heavy, @ 8 lbs. Mandy lived with other cats, a dog, children, with no problems, I was told by the shelter. She is healthy and loves to play…with me and toys. I may be “selfish” wanting another cat, one that is more interactive and cuddly, but I so miss this. However, my instinct tells me that, with time, Mandy would be just fine with Lovey. Oh, what to do? OK…one step at a time. Visit Lovey first to check out. I take this very seriously, for my cats have Forever Homes with me, no matter what. And Mandy was 1st and stays 1st regarding another kitty.

    • Ingrid says:

      Mandy is fortunate that you were willing to love her for the cat she is, and that you gave her the patience and space to relax and come to you, Ronnie. I can totally understand wanting a cuddly affectionate cat, though. On paper, she and Lovey sound like a good mix.

      I think you owe it to yourself to meet Lovey. Trust your instinct. And let us know what you decide!

      • Bopeeps says:

        Would also love to know how it works out. Good luck:)

        • Ronnie says:

          Thank you Ingrid and Bopeeps. The shelter was to call me this morning. Did not. So I just called and left a message. I need to find out more about this shelter. Once I had one give me the run-a-round. Wanted me to adopt but I got all the wrong info: lies. Hope this one is bona fide, up & up.

  9. Well I think this is a purrfect topic…so many peeps go get another cat ‘cuz they want one, but they forget to include their current cat in the decision and then they are “shocked” when their current cat rejects the new comer…deciding on having a multiple pet household is no light decision and I think peeps take it too lightly…the shelter where I came from has had several cats returned, some for the very reason just mentioned, their current cat did not want a “buddy”…ofter though, it is for ridiculous reasons like the cat was “too affectionate” or “played too much”!!!??? huh??

    • Ingrid says:

      The first time I heard of a cat being returned because she was “too affectionate” or “played to much,” I thought the person was joking. But you’re right, Savannah – it happens all the time, and it is absolutely ridiculous to me, too.

      • Ashley says:

        That’s how I got Molly! She’s only 1.5 years old, but her first owner passed away and her second owner said she was “too cuddly.” She does like a lot of interaction, which is why we’re considering a second cat.

  10. Bernadette says:

    It’s so much better to plan than just bring them in! All the years I was rescuing I was careful to keep everyone segregated and introduce gradually, but anyone who thinks two cats will like each other because they’re both cats hasn’t tried that experiment. I like the current idea of two kittens or even two adult cats adopted together if they are already friends, it just works so well for them.

    • Ingrid says:

      I agree, Bernadette, that makes a lot of sense.

    • Susana says:

      On the other hand, I had 10 cats at a time not long ago, that I got abandoned here and there. They had their own circles, and although not everybody got along with everybody, it was a well functioning society. Each had their place and their favorite humans and got along with their dog.

  11. Just like people, cats are incredibly unique and the circumstances (and results) when introducing a new cat into the household will always be different. You have given some great advice and guidelines and patience was always the number one factor in my house for success.

  12. Bernadette says:

    Goodness, just today I had one person ask me if I could take a cat from her sister-in-law who took her father’s cat home after he died and just put a 12-year-old only cat with her eight cats and the situation erupted. She just thought they’d get along. Then a friend e-mailed the age and specifics of a friend’s cat who just lost his buddy to cancer and he seems lonely, so they want to match him up with a similar cat. I think the second one is going to be more successful!

  13. gloria says:

    We recently had to put our dog buddy (11yrs) to sleep..My question is we have a russian blue male max he’s fixed and about 4yrs old.he did not really get along with buddy more him than the buddy..buddy love max..id love to get a kitten but im not sure how he would do..My sister has a new litter of calios ive fallen in love with one of them . help! what should i do?

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m so sorry about Buddy, Gloria. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for sure whether two cats will get along, but following the guidelines in this article will help. Additionally, introducing the newcomer to your Russian Blue very slowly will also go a long way toward a happy outcome.

  14. Kimberly says:

    We got lucky…Our Dusty lost his mother and siblings when his mother was killed by a car. He was bottle fed but he really seemed to want a “friend”. We adopted Clubs (who is about 3 months younger) and they bonded right away. Occassionally they’ll have a little minor scuffle but nothing serious. Our older cat is not pleased with them but she tolerates the boys. There’s no way to know whether they’ll get along or not but…watch them and “listen” to what they’re telling you with their body language. Dusty wanted to play with our older Girl so badly…and she did NOT want to “play” (she’s about 10-11 years old). It was a godsend to adopt a second kitten. Everything in the house got much much more peaceful. Girl even comes down and visits us downstairs, takes her spot in her sunbeam, she’s stopped stress grooming, she no longer lunges at Dusty. Clubs just balanced everything out nicely. The boys (3 months apart) are “brothers”. They play, chase, wrestle, bathe and often even cuddle…Poor Dusty just needed someone.

    If you can…maybe you can consider getting 2 kittens…and introduce them slowly to the older cat.

  15. Suzie says:

    We recently adopted an older cat that found us from the neighborhood. She is about 6 years old now. Then a couple months later, we added two kittens. There was heck to pay for the first little bit, but we had to quarantine the kittens anyway, as they came from the shelter a bit under the weather. So they did end up getting introduced quite slowly, over a couple weeks. They are all great buddies now. Seemed to work well!

  16. Manda says:

    Domino was less than a year old when we got our second (and older) cat, Mordecai. Domino had temperament issues that weren’t resolving themselves, even with age, patience and training from us.
    Once we adopted Mordecai, who is two, Domino became much happier and has adjusted well. I think had we gotten another kitten, things wouldn’t have worked out at well since Domino can be aggressive at times! Cai is so laid back that Domino’s aggressive behaviour ceased after only a week and now they’re the two happiest little brothers I’ve seen.

    I only chose to get a cat older than my kitten after much deliberation and a few talks with my boss/veterinarian on whether I was making the right choice.

  17. Christine says:

    I think this is why it’s really nice for shelters and rescue groups to allow people to foster to adopt, and to adopt “on approval”, and to make sure people are willing to follow good advice about setting up “base camp” and doing proper cat-to-cat introductions.

    When I check out cat videos online, I can find many examples of mature cats who end up thoroughly enjoying playing with kittens. I agree that introductions need to be gradual and always supervised.

    I think it helps if the older cat is feeling well. Many people who no longer feed kibble notice an improvement where their older cats start behaving more actively, like they did when they were younger. They often lose excess weight so they are able to run and play.

    The most interesting “adoption” I’ve seen is when a scared stray cat, Blackie, started hanging around our older spayed female kitty, Lily, while she was on her halter outside. I eventually was able to pet him and brought him inside. We got him neutered. He was always super shy, but he loved Lily and he bonded to me as well. We think he was under two years old while Lily was several years older. They would play and sleep together.

  18. Alice Jones says:

    17 years ago we lost a wonderful cat to CRF and decided to adopt another cat as a companion to our 15 year old Generic (Genny to her friends) Okay, I’ll be honest, I wanted another cat and really didn’t take Generic’s wishes into account. We found a beautiful little black 6 month old and decided to adopt her. We brought the carrier into the room and were in the process of filling out the paperwork before taking our new baby home. When we went to add the kitten to the carrier her sister (littermate) had already settled into the carrier and seemed ready to go. So both Lillith and Ebony came home with us. Generic wasn’t thrilled but adjusted quickly. She basically ignored “the girls” and Ebony was terrified of the “big kitty”. Lillith and Ebony played together and pretty much left Genny alone. Worked out well. Now, 17 years later we have just lost Ebony and Lillith is an only cat. Actually I think she is really enjoying being the only cat and having all the attention to herself so I will probably not adopt anytime soon. Time will tell. If the right cat showed up at my door (and they usually do) I would probably attempt it, but I hate to think of Lillith being anything but happy for the last years of her life.

  19. Susana says:

    I had Sesame, a 12 year old tuxedo that has chronic hepatitis. Frodo, a 4 month old yellow tabby male was offered through Twitter and I adopted him without hesitation. While Frodo was young everything went well, but shortly after turning 18 months he started defying Sesame for the alpha male position. After some rough fights, I decided to adopt another young cat to stop the fighting. In came Freya, a 2 month old tortie, and she was just what the doctor ordered. Frodo and Freya hit it off almost inmediately, playing together and leaving Sesame to do what he wished. The two males still fight, but it’s nothing more than hissing. And the tortie material was exactly what Frodo needed, she’s not your usual gentle female (like some calicos I’ve had), but a strong, stubborn, incredibly zippy kitten. Now they all live happily, Sesame 14, Frodo 2 1/2, and Freya 8 months, sharing also their dog, Elvis, a 14 year old Airedale Terrier.

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