Merry Cats-mas to us!
December 7, 2013 4:40 AM   Subscribe

After a five-month break (our sweet kitty died on Bastille Day), aerosolkid and I are getting a cat (my choice) and a kitten (his choice) the day after Christmas. I want to make sure that they'll each be receptive to the other before we bring them home. I've begun volunteering at the shelter where we'll go, so can spend some extended time with the cats that I like. I currently have my eyes on a particular cat; I put a kitten to his nose one time and he didn't care, but I suspect there's more that I should do. I know how to introduce cats once they're home, but I'd like to have an expectation of success before we get that far. If you've adopted two non-bonded cats at the same time, how did you make sure they'd get along?
posted by Wet Hen to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't done this myself, but I've heard (from mostly reliable sources who volunteer at shelters) that adopting on the same day from the same place is a huge help (like you are planning to do), because the cats smell the same (to each other), and are both newbies to your house at the same time.

You could continue to try introducing various combinations of cat/kitten, like you've done. Also talk to as many of the other volunteers as possible and get their thoughts on who would make a good pair.

Consider the gender? I've had female kittens from the same litter who hated each other, and non-related male kittens who loved each other. Maybe try different combinations of older female/younger male and vice versa?

Good luck, and thanks for adopting!

Also, please consider continuing to volunteer after you adopt!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:57 AM on December 7, 2013

Female/male or male/male sometimes get along better than female/female.

Pick a cat who is housed in a cage with other cats. That provides some assurance they can get along with other kitties.

It is much easier for an adult cat to adjust to a kitten or young cat rather than another adult cat, as the former doesn't have formed personalities and preferences. Unless the adult cat you pick truly hates other cats.

However, your chosen adult cat is very old, the kitten may end up making him/her miserable. The old one will want to lay around, and the kitten will want to play all the time.
posted by schroedinger at 7:03 AM on December 7, 2013

The people who run the shelter will be able to tell you if a cat is good with other cats, bad with other cats, or has never been observed interacting with other cats. Only pick from cats they say explicitly are good with other cats to maximize your chances for household peace. (We got a cat from the third category; it turned she out she hates other cats. We are doing a lot of work to try to create peace as a result.)

The shelter people we've talked to say that even cats that have been observed being friendly to other cats may end up hating some particular cats. So, it might be worth it to average out your cat+kitten requirements and get young adult siblings that have been friends their whole lives. Sometimes shelters will also label pairs of cats as "bonded pairs." Those are a very safe bet.
posted by ignignokt at 7:08 AM on December 7, 2013

Does your shelter have an open playroom area of any kind? If it's allowed, simply letting the big guy hang in an open space where other cats are doing their thing can be a good way to test both how he interacts with other cats and also general energy levels between him and also any kitten candidates. Try hanging back and not interaction (so hard!) and just watching what he does on his own when given a choice, or maybe grab a toy and start him playing with a nearby cat. If he either plays well with others or basically ignores everybody, then you're golden, Like Schroedinger said, kitten personalities change so much that as long as the big boy is bawically copacetic with other cats, he should basically be able to teach a kitten how he wants them to behave. Though it might help if he's young enough to still enjoy a good tumbledown drag out kitty playtime from time to time...
posted by theweasel at 7:55 AM on December 7, 2013

Since you have a relationship with this shelter, do you think they'd let him spend some time hanging out with the kittens to see if there are any he seems to particularly click with if you asked?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:00 AM on December 7, 2013

Here's some things you can do to make this easier: when you bring the cats home, have a Feliway diffuser up and running. Feed each cat in a bowl of his/her own. Have one litterbox for each cat and one extra. Have plenty of hiding places.

We just (three days ago) brought home three non-bonded cats, of which two were already living in the same room. The third is from another room in the same shelter. We did not introduce anyone to anyone. All three are one to three years old.
The two that were in the same room seem to be getting along reasonably well. There is no fighting, just the occasional bit of name calling.
The third one is in hiding, but that's not surprising since he was described as very shy and needing time to adjust after a change.

Feel free to memail me in a week or so if you want to know how it's going!
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:57 AM on December 7, 2013

In my experience, kitten-adult cat pairings work well, unless there's a huge age difference or the adult cat is established as preferring to be an only cat.

I'd go for an adult cat that you know gets along well with other cats - either this is information on their intake papers or (hopefully) the shelter has a communal room or two as well as lots of individual cages. Choose one who does well in the communal room.

Kittens are pretty adaptable and mostly seem to prefer company. (Some shelters will only adopt kittens in pairs, so they have a playmate.) I'd get an adult that's playful and on the younger side - say 5 or under - because kittens are so high energy.

IME (anecdatahound), tuxedo males and ginger tabby males are friendly and chill with other cats. Tortie females (which is almost always) can be fiesty.
posted by data hound at 10:19 AM on December 7, 2013

What sort of a shelter is it? I've perhaps been spoiled by having adopted from and volunteered at a no cage shelter - at a place like that you get a pretty good idea how a cat is with other cats. A loose rule of thumb from those days is that nearly all cats can at least learn to coexist with other cats, especially if you make sure that they all feel safe and have their needs met.

Having just brought a kitten into an established multi-cat house a few months ago:
- I wouldn't pair a kitten with an adult that was older than two or three unless the adult was preternaturally playful and energetic or the kitten was unusually chill. Adding an energetic kitten to a group of fairly energetic five and six year olds worked, but it was pretty rocky.
- the most important thing governing a cat really engaging with other cats is having grown up with other cats for an extended time. My cats who had been singletons do fine with other cats, but I've almost never found them in a cuddle pile. The group cats are regularly found together.
- the most important thing for specific cats getting along is to match energy level and play style. Any deficits here are up to you to make up, or one cat may end up picked on.
- neutered males generally seem to get on fairly well with other cats. I've never seen introduction problems in my home with the boys, and few at the shelter. Adult females can be quite touchy (but not always).
posted by wotsac at 10:53 AM on December 7, 2013

Have you considered adopting a mother/kitten combination? Our rescue cat was up for adoption with one of his brothers and his mother. Ideally, they all would have stayed together, but we could only take one. Answers from a previous question seem to suggest the family bond is not always a problem.

Otherwise, I would look for cats that are just chill around other cats. Again, my cat (my recently returned, most wonderfulest kitty in the world) was fostered in a home with lots of other dogs and cats. He is pretty blasé about any other non-prey mammals in his vicinity.

Oh, and about the age differences, my now-departed older cat was 18 when we brought the kitten home. She always hated other cats. She hated him. She hated us from bringing home home and ruining her life. She would growl whenever she saw him, and he's give her this Spock-like "fascinating" look and ignore her. But I have no doubt if she was physically able to, she would have attacked him any chance she had. Cats seem to get set in their ways pretty quickly, but then there's no guarantee that your cat was originally an only cat in his previous home.
posted by bibliowench at 11:38 AM on December 7, 2013

From experience: talk with the shelter folks. We walked in and told them that we wanted a pair of cats, siblings or otherwise already bonded, to adopt together. We wound up with a mother-daughter pair who were (according to the information the shelter had) 16 months and 8 months, respectively. Penny wasn't a kitten, but she was young enough to be playful and silly. And it's so nice having two cats who actively like each other, after the previous pair who'd managed to reach detente but that was about it.

They just keep getting sweeter. This morning we stayed in bed much later than we'd intended to, in part because the cats were glommed up to us purring. (Note, this is not exactly a complaint…)
posted by Lexica at 7:54 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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