Should I add a third cat to our humble home?
September 17, 2013 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Should I add a third cat to our humble home? I've read this and this from previous questions but our situation is slightly different. I'd like advice from other folks to help me make a decision.

About a year ago, lovely Alexander, our diabetic cat, had a stroke and had to cross the Rainbow Bridge. (Don't mind the sleepy dude in the pic, it's the only one I had easy access to.) That left his sister Molly alone. She's seventeen and is now a tad senile/demented. About two months ago we added Precious aka Little Pooter, a really sweet five year old to our household. The integration seemed to go okay--just a little hissing while territories were established. Here they are: Molly keeping a close watch on Precious.

We deliberately choose Precious for her demeanor which is submissive, thinking that Molly would be more receptive in her old age. And for a while that was true. Yet, Molly has progressively become more aggressive--to the point that I am worried that her not-really-dangerous, but intimidating challenges to Precious will have a lasting effect on Precious' personality. I think I'm starting to see signs of that already. Precious has become a bit less playful and more wary. She'll swat back when Molly has one of her fits, but otherwise pretty much ignores her. Yet, she seems a bit more withdrawn lately.

What I want to do is add another cat (we have plenty of room and don't mind the extra litter cleanup, etc...) who is more compatible in age and temperament with Precious. I'm thinking they can play (and maybe cuddle) while cranky old senile Molly can just deal with it. I like Molly, and will love on her and feed her until her demise but she isn't the same cat she used to be and so my primary concern now is Precious' happiness. I'm guessing adding another cat will disturb Molly, too, but there are plenty of safe places for her to go. Precious got along fine with other friendly cats at the local shelter, so I think adding a carefully selected third will help her remain the sweet, loveable cat she really is. I don't want Molly to turn Precious into a crank, too.

Anyone have an experience similar to this? What do you all think?
posted by CincyBlues to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
We had a pair of cats that grew up together until they were 10, when passed away from cancer. I decided to get him a brother so he wouldn't be lonely. When I went to the foster place it occurred to me that he may get annoyed with a kitten and the kitten would be lonely, so I got twins- a girl and a boy. The oldest didn't mind the girl, but didn't like the boy. The kittens didn't care and spent their time cuddling and not harassing the oldest. It is 7 years later. The 'kittens' still cuddle and the eldest hangs out near by, but doesn't get in to the cuddle pile (although he will sleep a foot away from the Flowers in the Attic pair). He does tolerate the occasional grooming from the other two and will play chase from time to time as well. He is pretty senile, but still spry, I think in part to having the youngins around. I would say to go for it!
posted by MayNicholas at 7:15 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here's the thing: there are endless permutations of cat personalities and cat relationships. It's sorta like you just never know what you're gonna get -- sometimes the sweeties turn into nightmares and vice versa. So, my only advice to you in that case is YES, go for it. We have had, over the last many years, various combinations ranging from 2-4 cats, and while they all haven't loved each other, it always manages to work out.

Also, Feliway is your friend. We always use it when dealing with new cats. And by that I mean enough plug-ins for the size of our home, times three months. It works wonders, and was particularly helpful when we had one very aggressive cat.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:45 AM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I would get another youngish cat to keep Precious occupied. Molly will feel less alone with the young ones in the house, but won't feel forced to interact if she doesn't want to because they'll keep each other busy.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:32 AM on September 17, 2013

We had an only female cat for about 6 years after her brother had died young. We went to get a "friend" to play with and ended up with two male kittens. After about a year or two when the two males were more cat than kitten, they turned on the female and made her life miserable for years. All of them were spayed or neutered. The female essentially lived under the stove for most of her older years. In hindsight, it was a mistake to have gotten two.

I think it is, as pointed out by BlahLaLa, very specific to the actual cats and very random as to how they are all going to react.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:49 AM on September 17, 2013

Speaking as a multiple cat owner, I wouldn't. We did very well adopting kittens within a few weeks of each other from the pound -- they bonded all their lives, and our remaining cat clearly misses her "brother" since he died last January, as do we. But for various reasons, I've also had at least two other cats, and I can tell you that we are constantly managing kitty dynamics. One of the very worst is when you bring a new cat into a household with an older cat who is already showing some stress. It just makes life miserable for both of them.

In future I'm planning to make it two cats only, who have known each other from their youngest days. This is not best for owners, because it is so hard when cats die, but it is best for kitty peace of mind, I think.
posted by bearwife at 9:15 AM on September 17, 2013

I think it's a good sign that precious got along with other cats at the shelter. Ask whether you can foster a cat --try it out and check the dynamics. If the shelter won't, many private rescues do (you may or may not have to show the cat to other prospective adoptors). That's what we did before adding cats to the life of single-grumpy-cat.
posted by Anwan at 9:50 AM on September 17, 2013

FWIW we have 5 cats. I started with one (Parker) who I had for many years before adopting Rodney (an adult cat). A tiny bit of fussing and after a week they were buds. Then we adopted a pair of bonded adult cats (Penfold and Burt). THEN I decided to adopt a kitten. Shapleigh made a great addition: Burt, Penfold and sometimes Parker ALL play together. Rodney is old and grumps and keeps to himself or spends time with Parker.
Getting a kitten was a great thing for us, it breathed new life into most of the kitties :) Rodney is not negatively impacted, he just doesn't participate in the horsing around.
These are all male, neutered cats.
posted by sleepykitties at 10:47 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I want to thank everyone for their thoughts. I'm going to try Felliway; maybe that'll improve cat relations. And I'll be on the lookout for a suitable playmate for Precious.
posted by CincyBlues at 3:15 PM on September 17, 2013

Update: We have added Lenny to our family. Shout out to "Of Mice and Men." He is a bit over 1 year old and after a few days of hiding, he came out to make friends. As expected, Precious welcomed him but Molly remains standoffish. He likes to chase and chew on his string! Thanks again everyone for the advice.
posted by CincyBlues at 3:26 PM on October 19, 2013

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