by Barbara George, Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
While cats are instinctively solitary survivors with no social skills, many have learnt the benefits of being social and the rules of co-habitation. Each cat and every circumstance is different; there is no quick answer to this question.
Looking at the situation analytically, we need to start with the main reason for adding another cat to the household. Is this for our benefit or for the cat? If for our benefit, will the cats feel the same way and be prepared to live together and share us? If not, they will be stressed, probably resort to unwanted behaviour, and make life unpleasant for us.
What behaviour suggests that your cat may need a companion cat? Is she lonely, bored, stressed, behaving inappropriately, or grieving for a missing companion? Check with your vet for stress and possible medical reasons for behavioural changes. Increase stimulation to reduce stress and boredom. Allow her to grieve the loss of a friend, whether cat or human, in her own way and time before introducing a new companion.
Is your cat generally social with other cats, or just the one companion she has lived with? If she is not generally social she may not take easily to having a companion foisted on her.
Do you have sufficient resources for another cat? Apart from food bowls and litter trays the new cat will need to have safe spaces to sleep, which may not be with your cat.
Cats are extremely adaptable, so it is difficult to assess the personality of your chosen companion in his present environment. He may look quiet and relaxed because that suits his present home, but turn out to be an energetic and outgoing cat when he settles in your home. Your cat may also display changes in personality as she is no longer one of a pair, but a single cat with complete control over her environment and human family. Timid or shy cats may prefer to live on their own rather than deal with a newcomer while assertive cats may terrorise a new quiet or timid cat.
Age is an important factor to consider. An older adult may not tolerate a busy kitten but would accept a quiet adult. Equally, an active young adult would probably enjoy a bouncy kitten. A motherly adult (often males) would be a good role model for a very young kitten, teaching him the rules for cats.
For adult cats, size may be a factor for friendship; cats of a similar size are more likely to form a relationship.
Deciding to add to your cat-family is not an easy exercise. After identifying the best cat to match your cat and the available resources, comes the process of introducing the cats. This process can set the form of the relationship going forward, so it is important that it be done in the best possible way to ensure success and a happy home life for all.