By Kerry Masters
Most of the people I know already have a houseful of cats and are maxed out on the number of cats they can care for. I also know people who love cats, but they only have one cat because they are afraid that their older cat “hates other cats.”
If you have been considering adopting another cat to keep your cat company, now might be the perfect time. Many of the older cats at shelters have been raised around other cats and dogs, so integrating them into your home may be easier than you think.
Adopting an older cat as a companion for another older cat can be challenging, but the key is to introduce them slowly. I always start my new adoptees out in my office/spare bedroom with the door shut. I make sure there are several litter boxes, plenty of food, a water bowl, toys, and climbing trees. I keep my new cat confined in the room for at least three days, and I keep all the other animals out until my new kitty gets accustomed to the litter box, food, and water and finds his or her own safe spot to venture out from. During this time, I visit often, and the rest of my animals often hover around outside the door, full of curiosity, but I don’t allow any actual contact.
Once my kitty starts hovering around the door and showing interest in escaping, I crack the door with a latch that lets cats in and out but keeps dogs out. You can also try to open the door but keep a screen or other clear partition between the two rooms. I let my new cat choose his or her own timeline for coming out to join the rest of the family. Some cats choose to come out immediately. Other cats choose to stay in the room for several weeks, only occasionally coming out to explore and then running back into their safe room at the sight or sound of the other animals. Often, the actual meeting is anti-climatic. They touch noses and walk away. Other times, it can be quite vocal, with hissing and stalking until one or the other backs off. I have often been surprised to find that cats who barely tolerated each other at first eventually teamed up and took over one of the dog beds!
We baby boomers are lucky to have grown up during better economic times, and many of us have retired or are soon to retire. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy this time of life than by sharing it with older animals who might otherwise not find good homes. If you have only one cat, consider if you might have room in your home and in your heart for a senior cat companion. And check out PETA.org for other great tips for raising happy, healthy cats.