As cat lovers, we want to keep our cats happy and content!
If you’ve been thinking about adopting a kitten to keep your senior resident cat company, check out this blog. To help ensure a positive experience for your older cat and a kitten, do understand that the kitten you will be adopting is for yourself. Why is this important? Holistic Veterinarian, Jean Hofve, DVM, explains, “Adopting a kitten just to keep your elderly cat company is not a valid reason. Get the kitten for yourself, not for your cat.”
My husband and I learned this lesson the hard way. When Hubble, our beloved senior cat’s brother suddenly died, Hubble was grieving deeply; searching around the house for his brother to no avail. It was so hard to see him unhappy and withdrawn. So after several months passed, we decided that the company of a kitten might help to raise his spirits.
One day when we were out shopping for cat food in specialty retail pet store, in a row of adoption cages we instantly fell in love with a five-month old kitten named Poe. We “legally” adopted him and took him home. After the isolation period ended we slowly started introductions to Hubble. However, once they met, we quickly discovered that our feisty kitten was just interested in playing rough and rowdy; while Hubble hadn’t a speck of interest in being chased around the house by an immature little brat. Hubble quickly made his feelings known with a loud hiss and a swat on Poe’s nose. This was definitely not what we had in mind.
Needing some ideas about how to handle this situation, I contacted Dr. Hofve whose rather shocking suggestion was for us to get another kitten. She explained that adopting a vigorous kitten in hopes that it will help to perk up our older kitty’s spirits would, in reality make our older cat’s life miserable. Dr. Hofve cautioned, “Since cats aren’t extremely social animals by nature, don’t presume that your elderly cat is craving feline company.
“Cats are highly territorial creatures, so bringing a new, utterly alien scent of the same species into the house, and more times than not, we’re asking for chaos. Older cats will generally not take kindly to a kitten that they consider to be a pesky, frolicking “intruder” that is infringing on his domain.”
That’s because senior cats are set in their ways. They thrive on a customary and established routine. It can be extremely stressful for them when that routine is shattered. Adding to the anxiety and upset from their disrupted routine, having to put up with an energetic kitten who is eager to play can actually get on a senior cat’s last nerve.
Dr. Hofve pointed out that “Kittens and older cats are at completely different stages of life. An elderly cat doesn’t have the same interests or the energy level of a kitten. This age difference becomes extremely frustrating for a youngster who doesn’t have an outlet for romping and playing hard in order to dispel his energy level. It’s also significantly irritating for a senior kitty who might greatly prefer to spend his time napping by a window, basking in the sunlight.”
Following Dr.Hofve’s suggestion was the key to success. We adopted Aki, (the second kitten) at a cat show. Aki and Hubble fell in love and the two kittens happily played rough and rowdy; letting Hubble nap contentedly in the sun.
Many feline experts suggest that if an adopter seeking a feline companion for an older cat to adopt a cat that is closer to the age, energy level and temperament of the elder resident kitty. However if your heart is set on adopting a kitten, a successful outcome often can be accomplished by adopting two kittens who are siblings or kittens that already know each other. Although many shelters start placing kittens into adoptive homes as early as 8 weeks old, the optimum time is between ten to twelve weeks of age. Older kittens are more physically and mentally developed, have received their first vaccines, are fully weaned, eating cat food and using the litter box.
Some tips to consider:
Ask the shelter staff to provide you with the kitten’s medical records which include all immunization and worming records. If they are not available your veterinarian will start them on all their essential vaccines and appropriate worming medications. Take the kittens to your veterinarian for a wellness exam, which included a thorough physical, stool check and testing for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
Isolate the kittens for about a week to ten days in a safe room before introducing them to your resident cat. The safe room should contain two litter boxes, a scratching post, water bowls filled with fresh water, some safe toys and a couple of cardboard boxes in which they can hide. A snuggly cat bed is very appealing to kittens and a very secure area in which they can curl up together.
Starting the introduction phase must be slow and monitored carefully. Kittens who are less than 16 weeks of age are still babies. They aren’t as strong as adult cats and the older cat can easily hurt it. The introduction process must never be hastened because things could go awry. To help facilitate successful introductions, watch Jackson Galaxy’s tutorial video “The Do’s & Don’ts of Introducing cats”, for many excellent suggestions.
By: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW (Ret)