Young Cats are More Likely to Accept a Newcomer
Question:
In May 2011, I adopted two female cats.  The younger one is five now and has always been energetic and playful. The older cat recently died.  I’m wondering if my remaining cat “needs” a friend.  I’d prefer to not adopt an additional cat due to the risk of unknowingly choosing one that comes with high medical bills or potential behavior problems.

Dr. Nichol:
I’m sorry for the loss of your older kitty. As you move forward you are smart to gather information. Some cats enjoy company but if your girl is doing fine just hanging out with you it may be best to leave well enough alone.

Pet cats are different than their wild cousins. Members of a feral colony help ensure survival of the group by sharing responsibility for raising prodigious generations of youngsters. But indoor feline housemates with too much time on their paws may engage in turf wars and political one-upmanship. Think fighting, house soiling, and stress-related respiratory and urinary disease.

House cats require feline-specific activities to engage their natural, wild behaviors. They need to hunt, hide, climb, and spread out vertically. The average human domicile, comfortable for our species, can be a miserable waste-land for the kitties stuck in it. Unmet needs lead to trouble.

Beyond lives enriched with multi-level climbing and sneaking locations and nightly opportunities for the honing of stalking and maiming skills, the feline group dynamic has to work. Many long-established cats regard any outsider as a threat. A new kid would need to fit in. Your girl may have a decent chance of living peacefully with a feline house mate because she is already socialized with other cats. A cat who has lived its whole life without other kitties would be less likely to accept a new friend.

Research into aggression between feline roommates shows that they are more likely to accept another kitty of similar age and personality. Don’t combine General Patton with Casper Milquetoast. A pair of kitties under one year of age are more likely to bond than a couple of old feline fuddy duddies stressed by unpaid medical bills. The answer for your cat should come by observation. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.