It is very common for us to receive an application from an adopter who already has a cat. In such cases, people sometimes ask what age, breed, or gender of cat will make the best companion for the resident cat. Although there is no substitute for observing an individual cat–or learning its social history, if that information is available–there are certain guidelines useful for predicting whether two cats will get along.
Probably the most common recommendation is to select a kitten of the opposite gender: a female kitten if the resident cat is an adult male, or a male kitten if the resident cat is an adult female. However personality can play a factor as well.
• If you have an adult female who has been an “only” cat for some time, it is best to get a younger female. Males, even friendly ones, can over-power and frighten females. Male kittens, while more easily dominated by the female, still grow up to be rambunctious teenagers that engage in a style of play that involves pounce and wrestle (not a female’s idea of fun).
• If a young, active male is your family pet, he would really enjoy having a male buddy who shares his enthusiasm for vigorous play.
• A laid-back, older (neutered) male cat may enjoy “mothering” a kitten–male or female. They usually make better mother substitutes than spayed females. Females, in general, are less accepting of newcomers.
• Males tend to bond with each other unless both have dominant personalities. (A dominant cat engages in a lot of rubbing–scent marking–behavior, likes to rest in high places (for surveillance purposes) and in doorways (to control the entrance to certain rooms), and shows little or no fear.
Factors other than age and gender can also come into play when one considers cats of different breeds. For example, a cat of a more sedentary breed, such as a Persian, is unlikely to enjoy the high-spirited company of an Abyssinian. Here is a list of breeds currently or recently featured on the PPCR website, grouped by typical activity level. (This list is adapted from information in Barron’s Encyclopedia of Cat Breeds.)
Sedentary: American Shorthair, Himalayan, Persian, Ragdoll, Scottish Fold, Nebelung
Moderately active: American Curl, Bombay, Cymric, Havana Brown, Maine Coon, Munchkin
Very active: Abyssinian, Bengal, Egyptian Mau, Savannah, Siamese, Sphynx, Tonkinese, Turkish Angora
Of course, there is quite a bit variation from one cat to the next, but the energy level of an individual cat is usually clear by the time the cat reaches adulthood. Factors such as illness, trauma, or obesity can sometimes obscure a cat’s underlying nature, but for any adult cat you see on the PPCR website the foster mom can give you a very good idea of how active the cat is.
In addition, there are “diva” cats who do not care for feline companionship at all. Some will ignore any other cat, whereas others respond aggressively when another cat is near. Often a cat who has had a negative experience in a multi-cat household will be slow, or unwilling, to accept overtures from any other cat. Then there are “victim cats,” individuals who, for whatever reason, are so ready to be tormented that even a normally sociable cat will make an exception in their case. A cat who hisses and runs will often be chased even by a cat who would, in other circumstances, not be dominant. If you have a fearful cat–a high-strung princess or sensitive darling who needs a lot of time to be comfortable around a stranger—it is often best to adopt a lower energy, older cat who is either friendly to all other cats or just too lazy for the chase!
We urge you to read the “bios” on the PPCR website and ask our foster moms any questions you have about likely compatibility between your resident cat and any one of ours.
Important Note: Even cats who will ultimately become the best of friends must be introduced slowly and carefully. There are many excellent articles available on introducing cats to one another.