Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I’m moving in with my boyfriend, who already owns a lovely kitty named Lucy. Lucy is used to me since I’m over often. However, she is a pretty aloof kitty, even with my boyfriend (except in the morning when she wants snuggles from him, or me as a last resort if she can’t wake him up). She’s going to be a year old soon, but she’s been an only child since we adopted her back in October. I’m hoping to adopt another cat, but I suppose my fear is that she won’t take to having a new sibling, and I’m not sure if I should get a kitty her age, or if I should go with one older or younger. Any insight you could give would be a great help.
Siouxsie: Well, Veronica, it’s awesome that you’re asking this question because it means that you have Lucy’s best interests at heart.
Thomas: In this case, since you’re about to move in with your boyfriend, we’d strongly suggest you wait to adopt another cat until you’ve all settled into your new routine.
Bella: We cats can get pretty easily stressed about life changes, especially major ones like having a new person — even one we already know — moving into our home. Lucy needs to get used to the new routine before you even think about bringing in another cat.
Siouxsie: It might take a few weeks (or more, depending on how easily stressed Lucy is) for her to feel comfortable with having you there as a housemate rather than as a guest. But it’s worth taking this time because it will dramatically improve the chances of a new kitty integrating well into your home.
Thomas: You should also take stock of whether you have enough space for things like another litterbox (you should have at least one per cat, and many cat experts recommend one per cat plus one extra), and enough cat furniture that Lucy and her potential new friend have lots of vertical space.
Bella: After things have settled down and you and your boyfriend both still want to bring another cat home, it’s time to start planning for the best possible outcome.
Siouxsie: You should have an extra room, with a door that closes, for the introduction process. This room should not be your bedroom — that’s clearly a high-importance area for Lucy since she sleeps with you — or the bathroom, especially if the bathroom is very small and/or has no windows.
Thomas: In a pinch, you could use the bedroom, although you might have to temporarily rearrange your furniture so that your bed is in the main part of the house. If you go this route, move the furniture around a few days before you bring home a new kitty.
Bella: We’d recommend a pre-introduction scent swap. The week before Mama brought me home from the shelter, she rubbed a (clean) sock on my head and neck so she could bring my smell home to Siouxsie and Thomas. She also let me sniff a sock she’d rubbed on Siouxsie and Thomas.
Siouxsie: Because of the pre-introduction, Mama was able to gauge our reaction to the smell of a new cat. She also explained who the bearer of that smell was.
Thomas: That sweet, lovely kitten smell…
Bella: Awww, you’re such a nice guy, Thomas …. Ouch! Siouxsie, why did you whack me?
Siouxsie: Quit your mooning and let’s get back to work. Anyway, if we’d been more growly about the smell, Mama would have known she needed to do some extra work for the introduction to go over well. But we were both very nice about it.
Thomas: Once you’ve laid the groundwork and gotten all the supplies you need for your new resident (presuming Lucy has indicated she’d be okay with a new feline roommate), you’ll need to take the time to do a proper introduction. The Humane Society of the United States has a very good tip sheet on introducing new cats, so we’d recommend you take a look at that.
Bella: Now, on to the age and sex issue. We definitely think you’ll want to get a cat the same age as, or younger than, Lucy. The reason for that is that their energy levels will probably be a good match and they’ll be able to entertain each other by playing together.
Thomas: Some people say that cats of opposite sexes get along better than those of the same sex. I don’t know how true that is because I’ve never had unfamiliar cats of the same sex suddenly appear in my home …
Siouxsie: I have! *hisss* …
Thomas: … but I do know the sexes of the individual cats probably won’t make a difference at all if their personalities clash.
Bella: Kittens do have a way of charming even the most sullen adult cats, though. Right, Siouxsie?
Thomas: Anyway, Veronica, we’d recommend that you try matching energy levels and personalities. And be ready to play with both cats a lot, because play helps to release stress and can improve the bond between you and your cats.
Bella: By the way, this is true even if you decide Lucy should stay an only cat — you and your boyfriend should spend time playing with her every day. In fact, only cats need play time with their people even more than paired-up cats because play prevents boredom and reduces tension.
Siouxsie: Good luck, Veronica. Please let us know how things turn out.