Should we adopt this pair of kittens to keep our rambunctious terminally ill cat company?
April 28, 2010 11:05 PM   Subscribe

We currently have one highly social special needs cat, Tux, and we absolutely need to adopt a kitten to keep him company. Due to his medical condition, Tux may or may not be with us for much longer. The problem is, the kitten we're in love with is part of a set. Is adopting 2 kittens a good idea, or should we split the pair?

Tux is a rambunctious cat who needs a lot of attention and company. He does really well other cats, provided they enter his life when they're young so he can be the boss. We had a kitten for him until recently and they were a perfect match. (That's a whole other story I will share in comments if anyone is interested.)

8 weeks ago Tux was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and though his medicine is keeping the fluid out of his lungs, it's a fatal condition.

We have found a kitten we love (and that would be a good match for Tux, personality wise) through a rescue society, and are going to meet her this weekend. She has a sister who is equally adorable and the rescue society would like to adopt them out as a pair, my questions are:

-- How much longer might Tux be with us? I've done a bunch of googling and talked to my vet, but no one really has any solid information. If he's going to be with us for 6 more years I don't want to adopt 2 cats, but if it's only 6 months it seems like a reasonable choice.

-- If we adopt the kittens as a pair will they ignore Tux and not do their job of playing with him and keeping him company? They're already bonded and friendly with each other, after all.

-- If we adopt one cat and Tux dies, is it going to be very hard to introduce a new cat to a girl cat? I've heard they're meaner.

-- Is three cats too many to have? Can we conceivably find a new place to rent and be honest about the number of cats we have?

Thanks in advance for your thoughtful answers. It's nice that there's a place on the internet like metafilter.
posted by RMQ to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Assuming they're more than a couple months old, please don't split up the pair.

But, that also means that I'd suggest not adopting either of them. Three cats is beyond my personal limit for non-farm dwellings, and the limit for most rental properties is two.

And I think you're right that they likely wouldn't play too much with the older cat. At least not in the short term. My parents have some ungodly number of cats... like, six or something. They adopted a tightly-bonded pair of farm cats; they pretty much ignored the other cats for the first couple years.
posted by Netzapper at 12:03 AM on April 29, 2010

1) I don't know anything about cardiomyopathy, but I hope he will be with you for a long and happy time.

2) The kitten will bond more easily to your Tux if he is the only option for company. Two kittens might be a lot for him to handle if he starts to slow down and need more quiet time. I would also worry about them possibly ganging up on him. My instinct says stick with one kitten. Maybe another kitten entirely, if they're worried about splitting the pair.

3) If Tux dies, the remaining cat will be used to having another cat for company. The introduction process might not be easy, but I wouldn't worry about it at this point.

4) Three cats might feel like a lot depending on how much space you have. You should be able to find a place and be honest about the number of pets you have. The tricky bit is that rent might be more than you expect to pay, there may be fewer places to choose from, and you might not be able to be as picky about other apartment amenities. You should be able to find a place though.

Just my opinions, of course! I hope everything works out for you.
posted by studioaudience at 12:05 AM on April 29, 2010

I think that either you adopt the pair, or adopt some other kitty from the pound/Humane Society/etc. who isn't part of that pair but also needs a good home and a good pal.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:21 AM on April 29, 2010

I did exactly what you're proposing, got two young kittens to be friends with my old cat. It worked out really well. The kittens are now grown cats and still snuggle and play together and Mandy (the old cat) also gets on very well with them. She'll find one of them lying down somewhere, pin them down with an elbow, lick them all over, then lie on top and go to sleep. It's even cuter when she lays on top of both of them at once. She's definitely more playful with the younger cats around even though she's pretty arthritic by now and having two worked just as well for her as when we had one (similar story as you there too I think).

Our young cats had come from a litter with a mother so they were used to other cats being around, so were willing to socialise with Mandy as well as each other. They also watched her and copied her for a lot of things, they'd turn their head and see what she was doing before reacting to something, so cute. Cats are social animals to some extent and living in an extended family group isn't unnatural to them. Also when they were small they were very feisty, which was too much for Mandy at times. So they'd burn off their energy playing with each other then have a quieter playtime with Mandy. Also, and most importantly for us, when Mandy dies in the not too distant future (she has liver disease) we'll still have two cats and they won't be lonely.

And I don't see any problem introducing a new cat if you want to once Tux dies. The new ones will be used to being a multicat household and the stories about females being mean or whatever aren't true (I've had all girls or some of both, no problems). Just be careful introducing the kittens to Tux so it's not stressful and they all integrate well and they'll be fine doing the same thing again later.

I've had three cats previously so knew what I was in for but I do agree with studioaudience that three can be a handful at times. Specially when I wake up to find lots of paws pinning me into bed and three faces peering down waiting for my eyes to open. At the same time they give each other so much company, it's not like I spend three times as much time playing or cuddling (unless I want to) and the social interactions between them all is awesome. I also don't think it's so important to keep them together if they've bonded or whatever as they're kittens, they can't have been together that long and cats are adaptable. But sibling kittens are pretty wonderful.
posted by shelleycat at 1:39 AM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree with so_gracefully. & 3 cats isn't too many at all -- totally manageable.
posted by oh really at 1:39 AM on April 29, 2010

I had an elderly cat, Alex, wander off and got a new kitten about 3 weeks later. Then Alex showed back up, a complete surprise, as he was in rough shape, and we figured he was gone for good. The new kitten absolutely made his life hell, keeping him from the food bowl and riding him around like a horse along with other general torment. The vet's advice was to get another kitten. Against my better judgment, we did, and it worked out beautifully. Alex was left out of the rough-housing, because who wants to play with a broken-down old cat when there's an active friend your size around? All three did interact, still, but just much more appropriately. I think having two little ones may be the best solution if your Tux begins feeling a little less able to keep up with one kitten due to his illness.

Going forward, I do not think I will ever get just one baby again. Saves some wear and tear on me, frankly, that they have each other to play with any time I might be too worn out to dangle that string another minute.
posted by thebrokedown at 4:26 AM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

I adopted a pair of kittens in 1994. The only downside to having two furballs instead of one in the early stages is that toilet training took a little longer (who to blame for the wet spot?), and the 'daft brother' was up to his kittenish pranks where he almost killed himself in various ways (the classics head stuck in food can, almost hanging himself in string from the blinds, confusing washing up liquid for food) for quite some time longer than other kittens I've had, so he needed a lot attention. They were served food in different places du to "daft brother" being a bit of a food hog, and had two litter boxes that they used whichever way they wanted. I never managed to teach them complicated tricks, like "sit" or actually use human toilet that I have taught other cats, and I think this is because they were two kittens (and partly because I was home less. Could also be because "daft brother" really wasn't all that smart).

Everything else was gravy: two cats who played with each other, looked after each other, loved each other and piled up on me in bed when sleeping. I still miss "daft brother", who was put down due to complications with diabetes in 2001, his brother was clearly depressed for almost a year, but is still with me and still the bestest cat ever. I'd adopt two kittens in one go again in a heartbeat, the first weeks of toilet training are worth it.

Also, two kittens hanging from the strings of the blinds will serve as optimum amusement for your older wiser cat who can just lazily watch them do daft things with a superior air and cat-smirk. It'll be like TV!
posted by dabitch at 5:00 AM on April 29, 2010

I vote for getting two kittens, ideally a pair of littermates. That's what we did last year ourselves, adopting two female gray tabbies, Phobos and Deimos. I am now kicking myself for ever having adopted a single kitten. They are so happy together! They love to interact with us and with the big cat, but when we're all tired from the kitten antics and high energy, they still have each other.

My parents' cats, when I was a kid, were each acquired individually and never got along with each other at all, until they adopted a pair of littermates. Since these two cats loved each other, they were also more willing to accept another cat who came later. It's so sweet when all the cats in the household get along well and sleep in a pile together.
posted by Ery at 5:33 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

We had a cat who lived with cardiomyopathy for years. She basically lived a normal cat lifespan.

That said, two kittens who love each other are great. More than twice the fun but less than twice the trouble. What others have said is very true to our experience of one older cat and a couple of kittens.
posted by not that girl at 6:27 AM on April 29, 2010

We got two girls last summer, and they get on very well with our other (7 yrs, female) cat. They've given her a lot of company and play; she's lost the weight she gained after our other cat died. (Shellycat, great photo.)

Three isn't bad at all. With the cuteness/bonded factor of getting littermates that we've found, we'll always be getting pairs now. when they bathe each other it is so hilariously cute it's just IMPOSSIBLE
posted by mimi at 6:38 AM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

We took in two kittens in January. A litter had been found in a window well with no mom around. They are endless fun - for each other and for us. The only downside is the all-at-once cost of getting them both fixed. (Free kittens, my ass!) But I'm really glad we got two. Twice the fun!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:39 AM on April 29, 2010

Like Shelleycat, I did exactly what your proposing. My wife and I have a geriatric cat, and adopted two 3-month old littermates. It's worked out great. The two kittens roughhouse with each other (and I must say, the fact that they can play with each other makes their lives better and our lives easier), which the old cat cannot do, but one of the two kittens has really bonded with the old guy and will seek him out for cuddling all the time. The other one hasn't bonded as closely, but they get along fine. Also, since the old guy's days are obviously numbered, the kittens will still have companions in each other after he's gone.

We live in a small house, btw. Having three cats has not been a problem.
posted by adamrice at 6:44 AM on April 29, 2010

Two cats is easier than three, but three is easier than one. Adopt the pair.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:22 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

We did this (though the old cat has had a few different cancers, not cardiac issues). The old cat has survived the vet's expectation, he's now 17 and the kittens are three.

Behaviorally, it's been great. They all get along, and they follow around the old cat like he's a rock star and roll onto their backs in submission even though the old cats is weak and half their weight.

The hardest part is just HAVING three indoor cats. We are in just 600 sq ft and maintain three litter boxes (and that is actually one less than is recommended). When there are health issues that come with extra care requirements it is sometimes frustrating, just like dealing with a human who has long term issues. There is never a day off -- it's hard to find cat sitters who are willing to take on medicating and multiple litter box cleanings a day.
posted by quarterframer at 7:36 AM on April 29, 2010

I'd go with the pair of kittens, for all the reasons mentioned above. The playful youngsters will rough-house with each other and not torment Tux so much, but he will still have the company of the young kittens.

To maximize space, have as many litterboxes as you can (at least two), and offer kitty condos and other climbing and perching spaces. Vertical space goes a long way to maximizing room, and cats LOVE to climb and scratch. Window perches, where the cats can look out at birds, squirrels, or just the neighborhood action, are great to have too.

Finally, I rented this place when I had three grown cats. It certainly is do-able - probably more in some places than in others. It helps that this is not a college town or high-demand city. I also had to pay extra in deposit and pet rent for the cats, but that was not too much. Renting with multiple pets is not always a stroll in the park, but it IS do-able in most areas (especially since you have cats rather than, say, multiple Dobermans or something).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:44 AM on April 29, 2010

I agree with what everyone's said above. We adopted 3 pups from the same litter, not cats, but some of the same principles apply. We couldn't bear to separate any of the three brothers from each other -- it was hard enough not to adopt the whole litter of 5. I know from experience that renting with cats is much easier than with dogs, especially more than 1 dog, but it really depends on where you live as well -- some areas are just more pet-friendly than others. I'm sorry about Tux and I hope your adoption works out well.
posted by blucevalo at 8:32 AM on April 29, 2010

nthing the pair. I had to put one of my cats down last year, leaving me with the 16-year-old grouch (whom I love, don't get me wrong). I debated about getting one kitten or two. Knowing that he wouldn't be around much longer, I went for a pair of littermates, and it was the best possible decision. They're bonded enough that they keep each other company and rough-house with each other, but they also interact with him (sometimes more than he'd like them to). For the most part, though, it's been a perfect arrangement, and when my big guy goes, the little ones will still have each other.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:43 AM on April 29, 2010

Pair for sure. We recently lost one of our cat boys [he was only 9! :( ], and made the tough decision not to introduce another kitty until our remaining guy goes to join his brother. But when we are in the kitty market again, we'll get two from a litter. Neither my wife nor I had ever had multiple cats, but watching our boys play together was so much fun we don't want to get a single again in the future. If your current kitty is lonely, add a few new guys to the mix and enjoy.

(We would consider adding kitties to our house, perhaps, if we weren't already on thin ice with our current spoiled cat for bringing home a human baby. He was not pleased but is beginning to make friends.)
posted by caution live frogs at 10:54 AM on April 29, 2010

Absolutely adopt the pair of kittens! We did it, and I am so glad we did. Cheddar and Colby are great friends with our cat, Fancy, an adult female black cat, and it works out so well I can't imagine having just one cat any more.
posted by misha at 11:41 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing the pair.

The one thing I'll add is that the dynamics might not work as you expect. We have an elder cat, got a young one as a favor (friend's cat had kittens) Elder cat DID NOT WANT. Then we found roadside kitteh, and she became fast friends with younger kitteh. Elder cat DID NOT WANT, but she tolerated young kitteh after that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:40 PM on April 29, 2010

Nthing the pair as well.

While I was growing up, my family would always adopt kittens in pairs. When one would pass away, a new pair would join the family. This meant that the kittens could play and roughhouse with each other, while the older cat still had some company (and likewise, when the older cat did pass away, we weren't left with a single kitten that was suddenly lonely for a friend).

While I definitely wouldn't want to go above three cats at a time, I found this really worked out very well -- especially since by the time we were getting each 'new generation' of kittens, the older cat was generally pretty sweet and mellow.

Whatever combination you end up with, enjoy them -- and here's hoping Tux is around for quite awhile to come. :)
posted by Kattiara17 at 8:50 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Kittens come in pairs.

The first pair are 7 years old, the second pair are 3 years old. The grey female (Abigail) gets along well with the ginger boys (Mingo and Fanty), but her brother (Oliver) can't be bothered.

Many years ago, I added another ginger pair of kittens to a single cat when he was about five years old. He seemed lonely, but once the kittens were in the household, he mostly ignored them except for occasional baths. Since then I've wanted to avoid lonely cats that can't/won't bond with younger additions and so I adopt kittens in pairs.
posted by deborah at 9:07 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

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