Which kitten should we adopt?
February 24, 2013 12:41 PM   Subscribe

We are thinking of adding another cat to our household, and need help choosing the right one - shy or outgoing?

We already have 2 wonderful cats, both about 1.5 year old neutered males, not littermates but best friends. They are playful, affectionate, generally outgoing, and are never mean. They get along well with each other and never fight. They spend most of the day grooming each other, napping together, and play-fighting. We have a big house and plenty of room for an additional cat.

Both of the new cats we are considering are females, age 4.5 months or 5.5 months. We visited both at a shelter. Kitten 1, the younger of the two, is very small. She is a little shy and skittish, but curled right up in my lap purring when I saw her at the shelter. She was in a room with 2 other kittens and didn’t really play with them, but didn’t actively avoid them either. She seems a little on the skinny side and the shelter worked said she was a picky eater. Kitten 1 seems like she would need a little extra TLC.

Kitten 2 is older and more filled out. She was very outgoing, similar to our cats, and really demanded our attention from the second we walked in by purring and asking to be held. She also initiated play with one of the other kittens. Though this kitten has been at the shelter for a while I doubt she’ll have any trouble finding a family to adopt her because she has such a wonderful personality.

I am torn as to which kitten to adopt. On one hand, I like the idea of adopting a kitten who may need a little extra love and care. I wonder if [after a slow introduction of course] our older cats may help Kitten 1 come out of her shell because they are so nurturing with each other. However, on the other hand I feel like Kitten 2 is a great match personality-wise for our current cats.

So my question is should we adopt Kitten 1, Kitten 2, or not risk rocking the boat and adopt neither? I'll update with pictures, I promise.
posted by tr0ubley to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
Oh yes, pictures please!

One thing to consider is that females are alpha in the cat world. So your sweet, harmonious boys are potentially in a position to get their world rocked a bit, at least at first.

We have a sweet lap cat of a boy, and adopted an outgoing, assertive girl kitten that sounds a lot like your #2. We figured the two would play together and keep each other company while we were busy or at work. Eh, not so much.

Kitty #2 remains the most assertive "pet me, more, more, more!" cat I've ever met. And our boy remains the sweetest lap cat there ever was. They don't dislike each other, but neither do they cuddle up. They each require their brand of affection from their people.

Thing is, so much of this is about the chemistry of individuals, just like the dynamic at a party full of people. So who's to say what will happen when you bring a new cat into your particular household? But if I had it to do over again, I might try to find someone whose temperament matched our existing cat's, rather than finding a complement. As a favor to our boy with a gentle soul.

Of course, now that she's got me wrapped around her little finger, there's no going back. We love our assertive little girl. And I suspect all will work out well for you too, no matter what you choose.
posted by nadise at 1:07 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

A warning: you really can't judge an animal's personality by how they are at the shelter; it's such a stressful environment that all the animals are likely to be very anxious and how they act there may not reflect how they act at home when things are calmer. Kitten 1 is very likely to warm up to you guys once she's been out of the shelter a bit. Kitten 2 might get more standoffish, or might continue to be every bit as affectionate, hard to say.

I found this resource helpful in thinking about what kind of cats are likely to mesh with my own. Personally, I love runts and more shy animals that other people pass over, so I'd go with kitten #1.
posted by zug at 1:18 PM on February 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

Both. I'm serious here.

Try letting both adoptees in one kennel at the shelter and let them bond for a bit. When you bring them home you'll be bringing the shy one home with her ambassador to the bigger cats.

Cats, as the MeFi populace will attest, are weird. There's no predicting how they'll behave. The two you have now may decide tomorrow that they are DONE with each other whether you bring a new kitty home or not.

Forever homes for kitties? All to the good I say.
posted by 26.2 at 1:20 PM on February 24, 2013 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Here's a picture of my two current cats, Snaggletooth and Joyboy. Thanks for the helpful answers so far.
posted by tr0ubley at 1:36 PM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

You'll be changing the dynamic regardless, and it's impossible to know how all the cats will react to it. Also, kitten personalities do not mirror adult cat personalities. My old roommates had 3 cats -- 1 adult, 2 kittens. At first, the female kitten was sweet and friendly and the male was skittish. About 4 months later, they were basically opposite.

I also had the thought, why not adopt both if you have the space? The 2 at the shelter obviously can co-exist, so semi-worst case scenario is that the 2 pairs of cats don't get along well and claim separate areas of the house as their own territory. Best case is you get 4 cuddly, awesome cats.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:45 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

My instinct (as someone who has no expertise about this except for living with some of the beasts) is that you should go for Kitten 1*.

Since Kitten 2 is more outgoing from the get go, she's more likely to be picked up by someone looking for a cat with "personality". On the other hand, if you think that Kitten 1 needs more TLC, there are likely to be others who feel the same way. Unlike those other people, you are willing to give her the TLC she needs. So, Kitten 1 has a smaller pool of potential owners.

As others have said, kitten personality does not necessarily dictate adult personality. And since you've got 2 adult fun cats to teach her how to be a fun cat, I bet you will end up with a fun cat.


*my very first instinct, before reading [more inside] was that you should adopt them both, obviously. But 3 cats is plenty, and either kitten will be happy to have 2 older brothers to chill with (I always wished that I had an older brother)
posted by sparklemotion at 2:24 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

We thought our guys (age ~1 year at the time) were nice cats at the shelter. but after a few weeks in a forever home they turned into the best cats EVAR. Nthing don't judge based on shelter personality, unless the cat is truly ill tempered. bet you'd be happy with either but may be underestimating kitten 1's companionability.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:58 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everything in me wants to shout DON"T ADOPT EITHER ONE. Bringing a female into the mix is likely to bring an end to all harmony. After 50 years of having many cats, the one thing that I know is that girls rule the roost and cause endless trouble. If you must get another cat, for the sake of harmony and the comfort of your boys, only consider another male.

anecdata: after the death of my sister's twenty something year old female, the remaining cats, all male, have become cuddly friends after being wary of each other for years. Yes, one female made them all on edge all the time. After she went, it has been peace and love.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 3:15 PM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'd lean toward #1 or both.

I rescued a very young, hungry, stray kitten a few years ago and she was adopted a week or so later by my friend's mom - she's a beautiful good-sized black cat who lives with two outgoing dogs! Very happy.

I have a girl cat and a boy cat; they are siblings. Boy cat loves everyone - other cats, kids, dogs, etc... and he roams a tiny bit (through a few bordering backyards). He has friends he visits - we see the iphone videos of him visiting other people for smooches! He has other cat friends too. Male cats tend to be very very affectionate with one another (well, neutered ones anyway!).

Our girl cat (his sister), is super smoochy with anyone we invite in. She's kinda like a dog: extremely territorial to uninvited "other" cats, and she doesn't leave the yard. Ever. If there's an infiltrator, she's the one growling fearlessly at the window (her brother, if he can't be friends, poofs up and hides!). It's all about who "belongs" and her sense of this is pretty sophistacated (neighbour's cats are okay, strays are not). She is pretty damn smoochy with her brother. She cleans his face (he asks her to!), they sleep together, he cuddles up to her in thunderstorms, etc..

I think a girl cat and the two boys will be okay, especially since they're established buddies and she's the kid sister (at first). I reckon she'll end up in charge, but they're not always terrors about it. My grandparents had two female siamese, and my aunt had two male siamese, and they all hung out together frequently; one of the females was "in charge" but not horrible like a humble nudibranch describes.... the issue they had was that in middle age, for no apparent reason, one of the boys started spraying - and stopped when his brother died! So affectionate, but still marking his territory! (I would hesitate before getting a third male!).

Good luck!
posted by jrobin276 at 5:52 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your sample size and audience selection here is skewed. You are mostly getting 100% crazy cat people answers. (MYSELF INCLUDED.)

So I have two harmonious cats. It's wonderful. You know what I want? MORE CATS. Oh yes, just pile them on. Let's fill this house up.

But I am not going to do that. I have a good thing going, that could all go straight to hell. Two cats = correct.

(That being said GET THE LITTLE RUNTY ONE, OMG, GET IT. My little sad feral/shelter runt with the broken tail and the jagged fang and the terror of shoes is blossoming into a hilarious yet still tiny adult beast, and she is the best. Our own little dim bulb is getting smarter! GET THAT THIRD CAT, GET IT NOW.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:09 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Honestly, while more kittens always seems fun, I'm kind of with nudibranch in thinking you might end up with a complete rejuggling of everybody's personalities in ways you don't anticipate.

Unlike other posters, we've found that gender is only a medium predictor of hierarchy. My old male cat, very quiet and passive, was knocked around by the females we threw him together with when I got married (they got the house, he still got our laps); in contrast, our 4-month old male kitten appears to have ruled our two 6-year-old females from day one, jumping right on their backs and pushing them out of prime sitting spots or food dishes, even when they had a 10-fold weight advantage over him (and expecting them to give him mommy head-licking later too). Their personalities have changed a bit as a result, with the slightly neurotic one becoming constantly nervous and the more detached one becoming more snide. However, both still love *us*, so it might or might not matter. I'm just saying, they're not going to take their current loviness and direct it at the new kid; that kitten will be an unwanted usurper, and how that plays out is hard to tell.

Good luck making your decision! Because, I mean, KITTEN! heh.
posted by acm at 7:18 AM on February 25, 2013

I'm in the camp of getting the two kitties. Then introduce everyone and see where you are. Can you bring your boys to the shelter to see how everyone interacts?

(I'm hocking Husbunny for more cats, but he's not having it.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:06 AM on February 25, 2013

Bringing your cat to the shelter is NOT a good idea and I doubt the shelter will even allow it, said as a shelter volunteer. It's stressful as it is and they will not interact. Since the kittens in the shelter are housed with other cats they will, after a slow introduction, most likely get along. Having said that, get the shy one! If she laid in your lap purring, she will most likely really open up in home environment.
posted by Ferrari328 at 12:15 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We decided to adopt Kitten 1, the little runt, pending a clean bill of health. Here is a pic. Bonus: she is a Hemingway polydactyl, with six toes on each front foot and five on each hind. I didn't mention that before so as not to further bias the answers we would get. Thanks for the insightful comments. Hopefully our cats will like her as much as we do.
posted by tr0ubley at 2:26 PM on February 25, 2013

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