Paws and Effect
Does Kristen need to get a new companion for her cat, since her kitty sister recently died?

Getting a new companion for your cat takes a lot of thinking about what’s right for that cat. Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

We adopted my friend’s two cats and had them just over a month. She moved out of state and could not take them. They are 2 1/2 years old and are sisters. Almost 2 weeks ago, one of the cats escaped outside at night and was killed by a fox. They are outdoor cats during the day, always have been, but come in at night. We were devastated! One, because she was so cool, but mainly because her and her sister got along so well and truly loved each other as companions. Our remaining cat, Scout, has always been the more social with humans and likes to be closer to home. While she seems to be doing fine, we are gone a lot on the weekends and one of the main reasons why I took both cats in the first place was because I wanted them to have a companion while we were away. I was planning on getting two cats in our future anyway, and when my friend approached me, it felt right. I am considering getting Scout a companion in the future. But my questions to you are: How long should we wait and do you think she’d be interested in another companion? If so, what age cat should we get? Scout hasn’t acted stressed about her sister being gone. But I’m sure she misses her!

~ Kristen

Thomas: Getting a new companion for a cat is tough, particularly when that cat’s bonded sibling has died. We experienced this with our darling Dahlia: she and I were very closely bonded, and when she died of cancer, I was devastated! Mama helped me to start feeling better, but it took a while before I was ready to have another friend.

Bella: And when he chose to have another friend, he picked me! Yay! I love my Thomas so very much!

Tara: And then, when I came along, Thomas tried to be polite and friendly to me, too. But I was scared and shy, and it took me a while to feel comfortable letting him wash my head for me.

Thomas: Awww, Tara, you’re a beautiful cat, and I’m so grateful you’re part of my kitty family!

Tara: Awww, Thomas, I’m grateful, too.

Bella: And me too! I’m grateful, too! Thomas doesn’t like to run around so much now that he’s an elder kitty, but I have fun playing chase with Tara!

Thomas: Anyway, Kristen, the answer to your question is that “the right time” varies from cat to cat. Some cats will be ready to welcome a new friend in just a week or two, while some others may take months to be ready for a new friend. And some cats will find that they just really like being only cats.

Bella: How will you know? Honestly, the right time to get a new companion for Scout is just as much about the right time for you as it is for her!

Tara: That’s right. You’re not going to “just get over” the grief of losing a beloved cat any more than Scout is going to “just get over” losing her sister. Some people say cats don’t have long memories and they don’t remember the past, but that’s just not true.

Thomas: Anyway, Kristen, we can’t tell you when the time is right. You’ll need to find that time on your own. It’s about your own grief process as well as Scout’s.

Bella: And if and when the time is right to adopt a new companion for Scout comes, here are some things to keep in mind.

Tara: First of all, as far as temperament goes, you will want to get a cat whose temperament matches Scout’s. Temperament match is more important than any other factor when it comes to bringing a cat into a home where a cat already lives.

Thomas: Since Scout is still a young adult, we’d recommend getting a cat close in age. A kitten may be too rambunctious for a mellow cat, and kitten-proofing a house can be a huge task.

Bella: The ASPCA has this great system called Meet Your Match. They’ve broken cat dispositions down into nine basic “feline-alities,” and when you know your cat’s “type,” you’ll have a much easier time finding a new companion for Scout whose temperament and disposition matches hers.

Tara: Some people say that a male cat will get along better with a female cat than another female would, but we don’t buy that. You’ve seen for yourself that same-sex pairs of cats can be very highly bonded.

Thomas: We wouldn’t recommend getting a much older cat, either, because there will most likely be a mismatch in energy levels that could contribute to a lack of harmony in your home.

Bella: But Thomas, you’re a lot older than me, and we’re best friends!

Thomas: That’s true, Bella, but I’m glad you have Tara for a playmate so that we can spend quiet time snuggling together.

Bella: Oh yeah, you’re right. Even though we do play chase every once in a while, we do spend most of our time together just quietly adoring one another.

Tara: Can we spend some time quietly adoring one another, Thomas?

Thomas: Of course we can, Tara! I’d love to snuggle with you some time!

Bella: Yeah, and now that I’m a grown-up kitty, I’m not going to get jealous of you, either.

Tara: That’s really sweet of you, Bella.

Thomas: So, Kristen, ultimately the best way to determine what kind of cat would make a good companion is almost entirely about temperament and energy levels. When you do decide it’s time to adopt a new companion for Scout, the adoption counselors at the shelter should be able to help you find a good match.

Bella: And just one more thing. We know that people in different countries have different feelings about cats going outdoors. But if we could make just one tiny suggestion–would you consider keeping Scout and any future friends indoors?

Tara: If you don’t want to keep your cats indoors, maybe you can build an outdoor enclosure in your back yard so that your cats can enjoy going outside and be safe from foxes and other predators–not to mention cars and other dangers.

Thomas: We don’t want to hear any judgment about Kristen letting her cats outdoors. Even Mama had to learn that sad lesson. When we lived in the country, we lived far away from the road, so she thought it would be safe to let us go outdoors. But then my beloved sister Sinéad got too far away and got eaten by coyotes. Mama was devastated, and she felt awful because she didn’t take her own advice about keeping kitties indoors, so she felt like she’d been a bad and neglectful mama and one of her cats had died as a result. *sniffle*

Bella: I wasn’t around for that, and neither was Tara. But let’s just say Mama knows better for sure now! She says the only way we’ll ever go out is if we’re on a leash and harness or if we have a “catio” where we can safely enjoy the fresh air.

Tara: Anyway, Kristen, we hope this helps you decide about the best kind of new companion to get for Scout, once you decide the time is right to bring a new cat into your home.

Thomas: And when it’s time to bring a new kitty home, read cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett’s tips on how to introduce a new cat to Scout so that everything goes as well as possible.

Bella: What about you other readers? Do you have any advice for Kristen on what she should consider when she gets a new companion for Scout? Please share your tips in the comments!

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