Adopting kittens: Avoid the doppelganger?
August 24, 2017 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I had to euthanize the best cat ever (with apologies to my surviving cat) on Tuesday. I'm going to adopt two kittens sometime soon. One of the kittens available for adoption near me looks a lot like the cat who passed away. I immediately scratched her off the list because of the resemblance, but I don't know if that's a silly reason to disqualify her.

I'm not adopting kittens to replace the cat I lost. She's irreplaceable, and I know that.

What I can't figure out is whether adopting a cat who looks like my late cat is an inherently bad idea. Would I always be comparing her to the cat I lost? Would I be disappointed that she doesn't have the same personality as the cat I lost? Or is it the opposite -- would having a cat who looked like my best friend make the loss feel less, I don't know, loss-y?

I know some dog people always adopt the same breed of dogs, so maybe this isn't any different?

I guess what I'm looking for is outsiders' thoughts on whether, generally speaking, it's better to go in a totally different direction, and whether my initial thought to stay away from cats who look like the cat I lost is logical or arbitrary. Your previous experience is welcome.

(I'm not looking on feedback about the timing of adoption, or whether it's a good idea, etc. I know it's the right thing for me and the surviving cat.)
posted by mudpuppie to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think if your heart immediately yelled "Nooooo!", then that's a good enough reason not to take the doppelganger. Why put yourself and the kitty through the painful process of mentally separating her from past kitty?

But generally speaking, pets are pretty good at quickly growing into their own skin. Soon, you'd feel like there may be superficial similarities, but really, they are not at all alike!
posted by Omnomnom at 11:49 AM on August 24, 2017 [6 favorites]

My grandfather only ever had tuxedo cats, one after another, and they were all named Sam. I don't know what his reasoning was, but I always thought it was a cute little bit of quirkiness. My current cat resembles one of my former cats, and it doesn't faze me at all, though the original cat died about eight years before this one joined me. I think if you did get this little doppelganger, you'd end up loving her for herself because odds are they won't have the same personality. And I'm so sorry for the loss of your best cat.
posted by poppunkcat at 11:52 AM on August 24, 2017 [7 favorites]

I initially scratched my partner off the list because his name bore a strong resemblance to a previous love interest. I'm glad I realized that it was an inconsequential detail!
posted by aniola at 11:57 AM on August 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

I lost a beloved tuxedo cat last year and adopted his great-great-grandnephew doppelganger two months later. At the time, the new kitty looked like he was going to grow up to be a twin of our lost cat, but now that he's full grown the resemblance is in coloring and cuddliness only. I am really grateful to have that connection between these two cats.
posted by annathea at 11:57 AM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

My philosophy is that I basically as much enough love for the world as there are hours in the day. Stick an living being in front of me and I'll love them as they are as best I can.

I think you're fine getting the kitten if that's what you want. You're also fine to go in a totally different direction. I believe that you will be happy with your choice either way.
posted by aniola at 11:59 AM on August 24, 2017 [13 favorites]

Maybe within your time frame for adoption (which I understand works for you and your current personnel), adopting someone who looks like your lost friend isn't quite right?

I think I might had a problem with it if I were adopting right away (and I have, usually within a couple weeks after losing a kitty), but now, when I think about adopting a pretty brown classic tabby like my Digory, I would do it in a heartbeat, just because I think they're beautiful. I think distance makes the difference.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:00 PM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I adopted my current cat, I felt a serious pang of disappointment that he wasn't like my first cat. He was more timid, took forever to acclimate to my household. And they looked nothing alike. As new cat and I grew into each other, I stopped making those comparisons, but my new baby fell short for a while until I learned to love him for the wonderful fur ball that he is.

Your best cat ever was lovely, and she will be on your mind no matter what your next kittens look like. If you find a kitten who suits you, then adopt her. Comparisons aren't bad, and they aren't disloyal. It's just memory and experience helping you with the present.
posted by gladly at 12:05 PM on August 24, 2017

I think this is a YMMV situation. But you're going to have to relate to a new cat in a different way than your old cat, because it's a different cat but also because it's getting to know you and the space and your other cat, which are totally different than being an incumbent cat.

One thing I can think of that might be a little awkward if the cat looks a ton like your old cat is that people who visit infrequently might awkwardly confuse the two. But that's probably not a big enough deal to base a decision on.
posted by aubilenon at 12:18 PM on August 24, 2017

If you don't feel comfortable about it and think you'll feel better with a kitten who doesn't look like your previous kitty, that's okay. I've made the same decision and whether it was something I'd have gotten over doesn't matter - I loved my previous cat, and I love my current cats, and they are all the best cat.

My most serious advice is to never adopt just one kitten. Adopt two or three so they can play together and you can sleep through the night.
posted by bile and syntax at 12:28 PM on August 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you bond with the cat—or more to the point, if the cat bonds with you—then adopt the cat (assuming it doesn't have medical issues you aren't able to stay on top of). The cat's appearance is immaterial.
posted by adamrice at 12:28 PM on August 24, 2017

This is going to differ so much from person to person. I lost an amazing black cat to a sudden blood clot in early 2016, and when I was ready to adopt a few months later, I was really drawn to black kittens. The one I ended up adopting has so many of the same quirks as the one I lost, but he's also the total opposite in other ways. It's a nice balance, and it makes me feel like some little part of my boy came back to me. I'm pretty sure I'll always have a black cat from now on.

However, it's totally fine NOT to go that route if it doesn't feel right to you.

(When I was visiting shelters and rescues, I found one black kitten who even had the same name as the cat who had died. That was almost too spooky. I nearly adopted him, but the attitude of the guy who ran the rescue put me off for reasons unrelated to the kitten.)
posted by QuickedWeen at 12:52 PM on August 24, 2017

If you can get litter mates, it is the best. If you get one that looks like your best cat, you will be comforted by it, in the end.
posted by Oyéah at 12:55 PM on August 24, 2017

I cant speak to the immediate question, but I have three cats that are pretty much identical. They're just generic short haired black cats, look like every other black cat, and I'm pretty much the only human who can tell them apart without serious effort. But - their personalities are so vastly different there is no confusing them. One is skittish as can be, other one is super needy and demands attention all the time, and the third is inquisitive and a pain in the butt and is always getting into trouble. In the dark I can't tell my cats apart on appearance, but I can tell you exactly which cat is approaching simply by their attitude in approach.

So - long story short, I wouldn't too much weight on appearance, because new kitty's personality will most likely be so completely different you wont compare the two. If new kitty speaks to you, then go for it!
posted by cgg at 1:09 PM on August 24, 2017

When I've been in the same boat, I've avoided the sameness. It was helpful in the beginning, when I wasn't quite emotionally ready for another pet, but I knew the survivor cat needed a plus one. I also brought over a lot of people who would coo over an adorable kitten. It was a two pronged approach: 1) mitigate jealousy of survivor cat who hated strangers and loved me 2) mitigate any slowness on my part with bonding with new cat, by making sure his socialization needs were still being met.

in retrospect, I'm still not sure if a kitten was the best way to go. The energy gap was pretty trying on survivor cat. But new kitten imprinted immediately onto survivor cat, and they're pretty much inseparable now.
posted by politikitty at 1:52 PM on August 24, 2017

My MIL adopted her current dog because it looked exactly like her dog that had passed, and onlyfor that reason. He is a completely different dog & it driver her insane every day because he has a different personality that she keeps saying is "bad" but really it's just not her old dog.

You on the other hand have thought about this. If you can say that you'd be fine if it did things differently, that you wouldn't think oh it's doing that thing wrong because perfect cat did it another way. If you know you'll love the kitten for who it is not who it's not (if that makes sense) then I say go a head. You know yourself better than any of us do.

Side note. I had a pure white cat for over 20 years of my life. 4 years after he passed I adopted a Rat terrier who is only partially white, but every so often out the corner of my eye when I see the white butt & the tail sticking up I still, for a split second think, it's my old cat. Animals don't have to be identical to bring back memories.
posted by wwax at 2:18 PM on August 24, 2017

My current cat, Sheba, is sooo similar to my late and beloved cat, Lulu.

Small , black, short-hairs. Check.
Super talkative. Check.
Cuddly, but not totally lap cats. Check.
Not super into having other felines around. Check.
Come when called. Check.

When I went to my local cat cafe/cat rescue Sheba basically sat on my lap and wouldn't get up, so she chose me and I couldn't say no.

Like you I was wondering if I should go for a very different type of cat, but now I'm so happy with the Sheebs. She is as different as she is similar to Lulu. She is more mischievous, loves to climb trees, grooms my boyfriend, follows me around like a puppy dog, totally into meeting new people and hanging out at parties.

So I think you should just go and find the kitty you click with and not worry what he/she/they look like.
posted by brookeb at 3:31 PM on August 24, 2017

I unexpectedly lost my beloved, horrible, grouchy jerk cat Janet this June, and wound up with another kitten (Arthur Dent) within about a month. Because I foster for a rescue, I didn't so much "go looking" as "was handed a kitten to foster that I sort of fell in love with, explicitly because his existing foster was terrified she would foster fail and did not want more cats." (I had actually fostered another couple of cats in the interim with precisely zero desire to keep any of them, including another kitten.)

Dent is very unlike Janet in a bunch of ways. She was a permanent dorky grouch, she was tiny her whole life--he's about four to five months old now and already considerably larger than she ever got--and she was easily the most play-motivated cat in the house. She was a dainty, slightly weird-looking tuxedo with a strange little white face and ears sticking out against a black cape who bossed everyone else in the house around and insisted that everything be on her terms, dammit. In fact, Dammit became her nickname.

By contrast, Dent--being blind--is a little harder to play with, and he is never going to be the determined little bulldog Janet was. He's a buff tabby all over, showing every sign of being enormous when he's grown, and wants to be touching people or licking them all the time. (No, seriously, as I type this, he's fast asleep on my knee, kicking my fingers against the keyboard.) He's happy to let anyone boss him, likes to sit on shoulders, and has apparently chosen to adapt to a slightly confusing world by letting it all go by him as he chirps to see what's going on. That's pretty much what I knew about him when I caved and adopting him.

I... I was still surprised as he started to grow and I got to know his personality better how much he reminded me of Jan in certain ways. Like: when he decides he wants something, he is single-minded about getting it; he cannot be trusted around people eating because he will zero in with unerring accuracy by scent, and his ignoring visual input means that glaring at him will not dissuade him from taking a sharklike chunk out of whatever he wants. He is particularly motivated by cheesy popcorn, also Janet's favorite theft target--we used to call her our cheese-seeking missile.

He is utterly fascinated by my partner's fish tanks and spent hours trying to dip his feet in the water, a hobby Jan was also a fan of. He's cozied up to Janet's snuggle buddy and pulled a number of tricks that none of our other three cats would ever have attempted--just her. He's got a naughty asshole side he waves around when he gets settled, it turns out--just like she had a sweetheart side that came out once her bossy grump exterior walls came down.

The point I'm trying to make is--

no matter how different they look, no matter how different they act, there are still probably going to be things about your new kittens that remind you of your old cat. Color or no. I wanted another cat like Janet pretty badly--not her coloring, the way she acted. I'm pretty glad I have Dent, even though it didn't work out that way. If you think the color will hurt too much--and I told my roommate, who has a vaguely similarly colored cat who otherwise looks nothing like Janet, that I wished every day that Spock was a different color--that's different. But I think the trick is to find a cat whose personality you fall in love with, not so much the color of the fur.

Does that make sense?
posted by sciatrix at 4:06 PM on August 24, 2017

My kitty girl Mara died of cancer a few years back and I adopted two boy kittens (Johnny Utah and Gossamer) about a month later because 1) a house feels so empty without cats and 2) every shelter cat deserves a furever home and I wanted to do my part. They are all brown tabbies. I can't help it, I just love the markings of brown tabbies. Some people think they are ordinary but I think they are beautiful. The dark lines around the eyes, the rings of stripes around their tail and legs and chest. The little M on the top of their head that is just asking for you to kiss that spot and say "MMMMwah!" Sometimes when my Johnny lies on his side and gazes up at me I feel like I see a bit of Mara staring back at me. Then I try to pet him and he swipes at me and haha NOPE! Definitely not her. She is gone and only lives in my heart and memories now. The boys fill my life with their own way. Their own personalities dominate so much more and are so different from Mara than any shared physical appearance. Each cat is their own and you will see that once you get to know your new friend, so I wouldn't let the similar appearance stop you from taking that kitty into consideration.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 8:28 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry for your loss.

The best part of adopting a kitten which resembles your previous cat is your less-attentive friends/acquaintances will be amazed by how long you've had that same cat. I have some friends who think I've had the same cat for 40 odd years due to my adopting three similar looking cats in a row.

(None of the three had the same personalities at all, they have each been their own cat.)
posted by jamaro at 9:53 PM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

My thought process, which is admittedly ridiculous, is that if I were the kitten, it would bother me to learn that I looked just like the previous cat. But I also spent many years after my mother's death fighting against my father trying to assign me all the personality quirks he liked in my mother rather than letting me just be me, let alone in any way critical of some of my mother's personality quirks, so it's probable I'm projecting a lot.
posted by lazuli at 6:30 AM on August 25, 2017

I had a big grey tabby named Curtis years ago. He died suddenly at age 9 just before Christmas, which ripped my heart out and stomped it on the ground, and it took me a few months to be ready for a new kitty. We went to the shelter and there was a grey tabby kitten; it was just that simple. He name is Lloyd and he isn't as fat as Curtis but he is almost as much as a mama's boy, and he loves his sister Lucy. It's ok if the new kitty looks similar. Their personalities will be different and it will make you both sad and happy. Such is the way of the animals who keep us company.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:57 PM on August 25, 2017

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