Surviving the cat-cat-baby nexus
February 13, 2012 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Introducing a very stupid and quirky cat to another cat, a baby, or possibly both. Bad idea, or worst idea ever?

My girlfriend and I are the proud owners of a very dumb, very oddball cat named Beans. We got Beans when she was only about 7 or 8 days old; her mother had abandoned her and a sibling (who died immediately) on a friend of a friend's stoop. Consequently, Beans has never met another cat, and has several behavioral quirks that may or may not be related to that fact, including a general propensity towards biting (rarely painful), occasional unprovoked hatred of houseguests (and occasional rapturous love of houseguests; you can never tell beforehand if she'll love or hate someone), a near-religious obsession with food, and a deep need to be held like a baby several times a day.

Fast forward to today. Without going in to any significant details, my girlfriend and I are well on our way to starting a family together. We're concerned about introducing Beans to a baby, because of her occasional aggression and overall weirdness. Having recently moved to a larger apartment, we've also been pining for another kitten in our lives. This brings me to the limited question I hope to have answered in this thread:

Is there any reason to suspect that getting a kitten now would make Beans more likely to be accepting of a baby by year's end, or would the double upset of a new kitten plus an infant several months later only drive her more insane? I recognize that the only true answer to this question is "every cat is different, so there's no way of knowing for sure," but I'm still interested in getting some insight from other weird-cat owners, as I'm obviously very concerned about doing what's best for both Beans and whatever sibling(s) she may soon have.
posted by saladin to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Would you consider finding an older, female cat that could fill in for the mother your weird cat never had? Perhaps that would settle down the crazy. I would not subject a kitten to the weirdness, nor a baby, for that matter.
posted by myselfasme at 2:37 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

It takes a while for any cats to adjust to each other. I don't really see why Beans would be all that different.

Read up on introducing cats to each other and go for it if you have a week or three of time and patience. Also a room to keep the new cat in while they're introduced slowly.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:40 PM on February 13, 2012

I also think that cats are generally happier with another cat, btw. They keep each other company and busy, even if they're never super friends.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:44 PM on February 13, 2012

Not wanting to shoot you down, but I'd be VERY weary of introducing a cat
with no cat-social clues to another. Extremely, utterly so.

Usually kittens are (or should be) with their mothers until 12 weeks old so that they can learn proper cat behaviour, how to act before another cat, etc. Beans has never been given this info/experience and if introducing cats who were raised normally can already be a stress inducing experience, then I can't imagine what it must be like with a socially inept cat.

I've been trough two cat intros during the last couple months (a 6 month kitten to another, and then both kittens to an 10 year old rescue cat) and even though the cats were all used to being around other cats, it still took a good few weeks for them to stop hissing/growling at each other.

If you really want to go through this (and I totally understand being concerned about the baby) then I'd be very very careful. It's possible she'll pick up everything off the new cat, but it's also possible that it doesn't go well at all.
posted by Trexsock at 2:48 PM on February 13, 2012

Strictly anecdata, but my cat is your cat, basically. She is codependent as hell with me, but hates all other animals and has a similarly mercurial attitude towards people. She has lived with a number of different cats over the years and has never adjusted under the best of circumstances. It's hard to predict, but after several test runs, I've concluded that she's just a one-person cat.
posted by mykescipark at 2:56 PM on February 13, 2012

It was about a year and a half ago when I moved in with a couple. We shared a reasonably big house. They had two cats and I have one. We went through all the introduction procedures and after a couple of weeks the cats grew so accustomed to each other that they would even tolerate each other sleeping on the same bed. When spring had come, I started to let my cat out because that is what he had been used to. He started to spend the entire day outside and would only pop in to have some food. It was only after I had moved out and back to an appartment where I lived by myself that I realised that my cat genuinely doesn't like other cats. Now he rarely goes out and when he goes out he only stays for an hour. I am just saying that not all cats like to live with other cats. I would introduce the baby or the kitten. A baby brings a fair amount of crazy into the house, and I am sure that your cat will have enough problems to get used to the new situtation as it is.
By the way, my cat is also a biter, and when he is in unstable situations like during the time in the shared house biting and other nutcase-behaviours increase.
posted by Okapi at 3:12 PM on February 13, 2012

The only cats that Matilda has ever been able to be happy with are kittens. But she lives ok with other cats, as long as they leave her alone. Anyways, I think you'd probably be okay with a kitten (or two so they don't drive her nuts) now. If you get a young one, you can know quite quickly if it won't work and a small kitten is very readoptable.

(Note that Matilda was raised with other cats and has lived most of her life as not the only cat. She just wishes it were otherwise.)
posted by jeather at 3:15 PM on February 13, 2012

First, to adding a cat: hit and miss. You just don't know. You are gong to have to be very patient - it can take months of slow introductions, with fights, pooping, acting out, etc., all for you to deal with it. (Or it could go really well.)

This is the key thing I'd consider: what if it doesn't work out? Will you be able to find a home for your second kitty? That's really important - the pound shouldn't be an option (I'm sure you agree with this; you seem like really nice people.)

These are some good tips for introducing a second cat into a household. They seem really overly-detailed, I know, but they're actually pretty right on:

Second, the baby. We have a 16-month old baby and a three-year old cat. We were very nervous about the whole thing, but the cat didn't even care about the baby. We did get a crib tent to keep the cat from jumping in, and used it until the baby was about a year old. But really, there were no problems.

When the baby was one and the cat was two and a half (about) we got another kitty. That was a disaster (see above.) We ended up having to adopt the new kitty out. (There will be no correlation between how your cat might react to a new kitty, versus a new human.) Our little boy loved the new cat - they both though the other was one of them - and they played like kittens. It was beautiful and amazing (and the few scratches were worth it.) But as I said, the kitten didn't get along with the older kitty, and bottom line was that the older kitty was very unhappy.

Good luck to you and your growing family!
posted by soulbarn at 3:19 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Good golly, I could have asked this question 20 years ago (my fingers are reeling from realizing how old my eldest daughter is, sheesh).

But I think my anecdote isn't going to be what you expect.

Anyway, we had Duke, a complete nitwit of a cat who we took in at 8 weeks after his mommy died. Duke had not been properly socialized but he needed a home, etc., so we took him in. Duke sounds a lot like Beans, but he also had the bizarre behavior of occasionally hiding under sofas and then flying across the room to attack people's legs (and like Beans, you could never tell who he'd decide to love or hate...I mean, this cat was nuts).

When he was around 2, we had our daughter and did all the Introducing Baby to the Cat things you read about (my husband brought home her hospital blanket so Duke could get to know her smell, we covered the crib, we'd let my daughter sleep in one arm while Duke stretched across the other).

Duke seemed pretty indifferent to the kid and we thought, "Yay! Success! We get to keep Duke AND the baby!"

A few weeks later we brought the kid in for a checkup, the doctor looked at her eyes and noticed she had shiners and said, "Your daughter's allergic to the cat. You need to get rid of it."

And Duke went to live with my sister.
posted by kinetic at 3:07 AM on February 14, 2012

It's possible that Beans will surprise you. Our cat Lute became an only cat at 8 weeks (not comparable to 8 days, of course). He always struck us as hugely egocentric (although we loved him anyway). When we started having cat-houseguests, we realized we'd been wrong: Lute was just cat-centric.

My point here being: socialization is important, but so is cat DNA. (If Beans has a propensity towards rarely-painful biting, might this actually be the kind of biting that cats use towards other cats to show affection? Also, 'near-religious obsession with food' does sound a lot like Lute.)

I'd say try out a kitten or two (with careful supervision). That way when the baby arrives and you two inevitably have much less attention to give your emotionally needy cat, Beans will already be distracted and enmeshed by a whole new cat-social-universe.
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:35 PM on February 17, 2012

Why don't you try fostering a cat with an eye to adopting it? According to the date on your photos, Beans is about 4 years old. I would go with a female cat who is younger than Beans, but at least a year old. Good luck!
posted by deborah at 8:15 PM on February 19, 2012

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