i don't want my cat to have a cow.
July 5, 2007 8:49 AM   Subscribe

What is the best age/gender of kitten/cat to get to ease the transition for my older cat?

I currently have a 6 year old, deaf, once-feral female cat (named Random) who has come a long long way in her personality development. My other cat, who was 5 yo male, recently died unexpectedly. While he loved her, she didn't care much for him but I know in the long run she appreciated the company he provided. Now I'm looking to get a kitten.

Background info: Random is never an instigator of strife, and just prefers to be left largely alone by other cats. She has lived with multiple other cats in the past, so she's somewhat tolerant and will mostly prefer to just escape when hassled rather than be involved in a confrontation. I know having a kitten around will be stressful for her, however she has a large number of escape options (i have installed "cat shelves" that are carpeted and located around [human] head height. She's a champion leaper, and the shelves have thus far proved to be a great option for her. She adores these high perches, since she has always sought to be looking down on the action.)

My question is, what gender/other characteristics would you recommend in a kitten? My last cat was male and I think that perhaps avoiding the female alpha cat contest was a good thing all around, but he was also bigger than her and liked to rough-and-tumble which she didn't, and he was a bit overly aggressive at times which didn't help her comfort level around him. I'm inclined to get another male cat because I think they're more cuddly in the long run, but what would be best for her? What do you think? I've been told to steer clear of calicos in this situation because they tend to have a lot of power struggles. Any ideas or thoughts? Also, any other ways to ease this transition?
posted by Soulbee to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a 7 year old female cat and we got a 3 month old female kitten in November. The first few months were rough, with fighting and the 7-year-old peeing on the floor.

It has finally ended on its own, thankfully. We have a lot of Feel-a-way blowing in the house though.

We wanted a male kitten too, but we went to the pound and there was Tina!
posted by k8t at 9:04 AM on July 5, 2007

I've heard that it's best to get a cat with a similar personality to the first cat. Unfortunately, with kittens, you can never tell what you're gonna get. I'd like to suggest getting a cat that is a little older. Not only will you be better able to tell if it will get along with your current cat, but if you get it from a shelter you may be saving a life.

There really isn't that much of a difference between male and female cats. Individual personality matters a lot more, but usually male/female pairs do get along better than male/male or female/female, so I'd get a male. Making sure that your current cat has a "safe" place to get away from the new cat will go a long way towards making the transition easier.
posted by rosethorn at 9:05 AM on July 5, 2007

Response by poster: fyi i will be going to the shelter for a kitten. i have thought about getting an older cat but i worry about personalities already being firmly entrenched, and if there are battles, they would be bloodier. Random was around a kitten last year for about 6 weeks and it didn't arouse a freak-out reaction in her the way a strange adult cat's presence has in the past, so I am thinking it would be best to raise a kitten to respect Random's space.

what's feel-a-way?
posted by Soulbee at 9:13 AM on July 5, 2007

When I got a companion for my lonely singleton cat, the woman who I adopted the new kitten from asked a lot of questions to judge whether or not the personalities of the cats would match. Given that you've said that Random doesn't like to play with other cats all that much, you're probably going to want to ask for a cat that prefers to play with people. You'll probably also want to find a cat that has already been socialized with other cats, so that s/he can pick up on Random's rules faster. We got a 6 month old kitten, old enough so that he wouldn't get hurt if there was a fight, but small enough so that he wasn't threatening to our older cat. I would think that personality matters more than gender, since both our cats are male and love each other, but only because their personalities mesh.
On preview: Maybe a cat rescue would be a better place than a shelter, given that the kitten will have experience with other cats, rather than have being trapped in a cage.
posted by blueskiesinside at 9:22 AM on July 5, 2007

Feliway is a synthetic version of a facial pheromone given off by cats. It's supposed to soothe them. (I've no experience with it but some people have claimed that it does great things, sort of a 'reverse catnip.')


posted by Kadin2048 at 9:25 AM on July 5, 2007

Feliway is good. My pair fight a lot and are noticeably more mellow and less likely to pee in the laundry when I have a diffuser going.
posted by corvine at 9:38 AM on July 5, 2007

This probably isn't the answer you're looking for, but have you considered getting two kittens? We have a 15-year-old female who never really got used to our (younger) second cat. He was friendly and wanted to play; she just wanted to nap. There was constant hissing and batting, and for a very long time she would refuse to be in the same room as him. She ended up spending most of her time in the basement and we almost never saw her.

When he died last year, we decided to get another kitten. The cat foster parents we were adopting from suggested getting two, both for the sake of the kitten(s) and the sake of our older cat. It has worked out beautifully. We got two kittens (brother and sister, but I don't think this really matters) who play with each other, and stay out of the way of the older cat. She feels free to roam around the house and doesn't resist being occasionally sniffed and kissed by the other two.
posted by puffin at 9:57 AM on July 5, 2007

Always, always, always Feliway. You may be thinking to yourself, "This Feliway couldn't possibly be the miracle worker people say it is!" And that is what I thought, too, and then I learned. Feliway is awesome. Feliway makes angels cry from joy. And, more importantly, Feliway makes the transition of adding a kitty to the family so, so much easier.

I don't have much original advice, but I do want to let you learn from my mistake. When we got a 6 week-old kitten to be a companion for our older cat (only a year, but still older than the kitten!), I had read up on how difficult it can be to add a cat to the family. I was completely aware of cat territorial instincts that could make them unhappy at an intruder. I knew that it would be a difficult transition. But, the thing is, all that knowledge did not emotionally prepare me to see my sweet, loving cat turn into a cruel, hissing, swatting monster. It hurt to see my sweety act so horribly to a tiny, defenseless, fluff ball kitten. Yes, it's just cat instincts, and yes it's certainly not something to blame her for, but it was still a terribly painful thing for me to watch.

So, be ready for that. It seems like you've already had to see your cat fight far more than I did, but still be prepared for it. Kittens are just so cute and little, and it just seems too incomprehensible to hate one like your cat will at first.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:04 AM on July 5, 2007

Response by poster: thanks for all the advice here. I am gravitating towards a male kitten and will obtain some feliway. i would love to get 2 kittens but I'm a renter and have experienced how hard it is to find a place for even 2 cats let alone three -- and my landlord has given me a 2 cat max anyway. I would have loved to get Dewey his very own kitten while he was alive, as he thrived and bloomed in joy for the time I had a roommate with a little kitten for him to call his own!
posted by Soulbee at 12:22 PM on July 5, 2007

Male kitten is definitely the way to go. Girl cats tend to be more touchy around each other for sure, and older cats tend to be more accepting of babies than grown cats in my experience. Our older cats went crazy with the playing and the happy when we got a kitten. Good luck! Have fun!
posted by Kimberly at 1:23 PM on July 5, 2007

Best answer: I'm in a similar situation, with the difference that Mandy is 12.5 years old, was devoted to her sister and has been moping hard out since she died. She never really liked other cats though and they were very territorial, so introducing another cat is going to be touchy.

I talked with several people at the cat rescue place and they all agreed, for an older cat it's better to get a kitten. Introducing another adult cat into the house is going to end in dominance battles and is a bit much to foist upon the sad existing cat. With a kitten she can be more in charge, the little one will grow up to fit in with the older one's existing patterns rather than both of them have to adjust too much. A rescue kitten who has been with other cats and/or fostered in someone's home can be a good match, they will have a better idea of how to deal with the adult cat and should be reasonably socialised.

Gender of kitten really doesn't matter, neutered adult cats don't show any major sexual dimorphism with behaviour and personalities vary so much by individual anyway. Get a kitten you like, you need to bond with him just as much (or more) than your other cat. You're probably safer if you get a sweet smoochy kitten rather than feisty playful one, and lots of attention and handling will help make him social and friendly.

I was also told it's better in this situation to get one kitten rather than two. That way the new guy will have to bond with the older cat rather than ignoring her to play with his friend. Also two kittens can gang up on the older cat. I used to have three cats and I think its a really good number, but our lease here also says two only and you're right about landlords not being so keen on three. My current one actually told us she thinks three cats is excessive and a little weird, although two is just fine.

Lastly, don't introduce them straight away. Bringing the new kitten home is a huge change for him, give him a chance to recover and feel safe before you bring the other cat into the mix. Three or four days is probably OK, it depends on your particular kitten. The adult cat will be aware of his presence (paws under the door can be good) and it will give her a chance to get used to the idea too.

FWIW, I totally ignored the middle advice about a smoochy kitten and last night brought home a feisty, playful, shy little guy. Mandy used to like play-fighting though and it looks like she's going to get a lot of that from him. We'll soon see how true the rest of the advice is!
posted by shelleycat at 4:11 PM on July 5, 2007

Why not an older cat? Is there some reason you have to get a kitten, besides the fact that kittens are adorable?
posted by O9scar at 10:21 PM on July 5, 2007

Because a kitten is small and inoffensive and at the bottom of the pecking order. Grown cats treat kittens differently than other adult cats, they're not such a threat. You want the existing cat to be top dog, at least at first, rather than having the territory owner fighting a territory usurper and the dominance issues that come with that. Dominance may evolve over time and the kitten may end up top, but by then they'll know each other. The advice I was given (which seems to be playing out nicely today) it that it's less stressful introducing a kitten and an adult than two adults.
posted by shelleycat at 1:56 AM on July 6, 2007

Best answer: i was in a similar dilemma as you not too long ago. i adopted a female two year old from the shelter who was adjusting nicely to my home when the boredom kicked in. as much as i was playing with her, it just wasn't enough. her endless energy was starting to channel into destructive behavior so i decided to adopt a second cat to keep her company. knowing that my cat was feisty and onerous as all hell (lord do i love her though!) i decided to adopt a male kitten to decrease territorial wars and power struggles. i didn't buy any feliway but i followed other advice regarding cat-introductions to a T. Ok so i may have shortened the time before actual face-to-face meeting from the suggested 2 weeks to like 4 days, but everything has worked out really well. its been two months and the kitten worships the ground my older cat walks on, loves tackling and playing with her but has also learned the importance of respecting the older cat's swatting/ hissing. and the best part is my older cat has dramatically mellowed out and is now even somewhat affectionate with me! the little guy keeps her active but the older cat has total control of the situation which i think she appreciates. i know the power dynamic may change once he grows up (he's just 4 months yet) but by then they would have grown fully accustomed to each other.
it sounds like getting a male kitten under 6 months is the best way to go for random. i ended up getting a much younger kitten than i had wanted because when i saw the 6 month old kittens, they were all bigger or the same size as my adult cats. but whew, kittens ARE SO MUCH WORK. i will only adopt adults if I can from now on.
in short, i would suggest following the standard introduction advice. Messybeast has a nice writeup. I would get some feliway. I would get a male kitten that YOU like. the previous poster who remarked the importance of your bond with the kitten is right on. if for some reason the two cats’ personalities don’t mesh, you can still be the kitten’s buddy.
posted by ceesbees at 2:06 PM on July 9, 2007

oops i just re-read your question. realized i didn't answer it fully.

so i think we've established that a kitten is the way to go (i say go male, but i think some other posters will disagree with me) but beyond that it may be hard to select a kitten with specific traits because their personality don't typically set in until later (exactly when i dont know). i selected my kitten because he was smoochy, not fearful, and playful. i hope he retains these traits but i'm not sure if there's a gurantee. thats the risk with kittens. but i think a risk worth taking because the older cat will help shape a portion of the kitten's personality.
posted by ceesbees at 2:13 PM on July 9, 2007

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