As a feline behaviorist I am invariably called in to “fix” problems that are already in progress – sometimes ongoing for years. And generally, by the time I am called, the situation has escalated to a crisis. But on other happy occasions, when I am asked to advise before someone makes a decision to add a cat or kitten to a family with one or more resident felines, I welcome this great opportunity to educate and put odds in favor of finding the RIGHT companion for the furry family member(s).
Knowing how to choose a “pet” for your cat will give the best odds for avoiding personality conflicts – which often show up as behavior problems, such as litterbox avoidance, spraying or marking, aggression, fearful attitude and other unwanted behavior. Here are some tips for making that right choice:
1. Choose a cat or kitten similar in body structure to your cat. The logic is that cats with similar body types have comparable and therefore synergistic activity levels. For example, a good choice for a companion for a Siamese would be another “slinky” type of cat – long and lean. A British Shorthair would do well with another “cobby” type of cat and so forth. The laid-back, mellow British Shorthair would annoy a playful Siamese – and vice versa. Of course, for random-bred cats, this rule still applies.
2. Male or Female? In general, male cats are more accepting of either another male or a female. Of course, we are talking about spayed/neutered cats – which is what your cats should be in any case – you don’t want those hormones raging, for a multitude of reasons! Female cats may have difficulty getting along with each other – just really depends on the individual. The most conflicts I see in my practice are between females (very sorry to say, for my own gender!!). If you already have a female cat and are contemplating getting another, choose that new female cat or kitten very carefully!
3. Finding the right temperament match. Make a list of your cat’s personality highlights. Is your cat outgoing? Is he timid? Is she very clingy or aloof? Does he seem dominant or submissive? Just like people, cats get along best with those with compatible personality traits. For example, don’t pair a cat that is aggressive with a timid submissive one. An aggressive cat would do better with a self-assured, calm cat or kitten that would not allow his or herself to be overpowered by the more dominant one. A timid cat would do best with a companion who won’t insist on being the top cat on the totem pole. If you have a happy-go-lucky, confident cat, she/he would probably be a calming influence on cats with personalities at either end of the spectrum.
4. Kitten or cat? First of all, let me say that if you have an elderly cat or a cat with a serious chronic illness, do your cat a kindness and don’t bring home another pet until your resident cat is no longer around. The stress would be very tough on your kitty and could actually shorten their life.
For pets without these deterrents, there are pros and cons to both ages. A kitten, especially a domestic random-bred kitten, is an unknown quantity. You won’t really know what their personality is until they are grown. But older cats are often more accepting of kittens – once they survive the adjustment period. Finding an adult cat to fit in with the felines of the family can also work seamlessly – if you keep the above suggestions in mind. Usually a shelter or breeder will be able to give a detailed description of the personality of the older cat and you can judge by that if it should work. If you don’t have this information, try to spend as much time as possible with the older cat to see if the personality seems compatible with what you know of your cat. Keep in mind that cats in shelters or other stressful situations may not show their true colors. Keep your head about you and try not to be swayed by emotions that don’t have anything to do with making the right match – whether you are choosing a kitten or an adult. Use the above criteria and you will assure yourself and your family the best chances of success.
7th Heaven Orientals
Marva Marrow is a feline behaviorist with over 30 years of experience. To find out more about her services, or to schedule a consultation, visit her website www.kittykouch.com.