From commentor Madeline:
Seventeen and a half years ago, I ran into a former colleague at an antique mall. He and his wife were cat people, and they knew I was a cat person. He asked if I was by any chance looking for any more cats…they had just found an abandoned litter of three, approximately three-week old kittens in his wife’s mother’s toolshed. His mother-in-law couldn’t keep them and didn’t know what to do. I already had two cats, but I said, sure I’d come out and take a look. No surprise, I ended up coming home with a cardboard box of three tiny kittens. That first month was something, figuring out how to bottle feed three miniscule screeching balls of fluff every two to three hours. My vet told me that my chances of pulling them all through were pretty low. Well, never tell me I can’t do something. At the time, my office was very close to my house, so I was able to come home for an early lunch, as well as take a longish break mid afternoon to keep them fed. Those first couple months were a lot of work on little sleep, but they didn’t just pull through, they all thrived.
I think they’re probably about a year old in this old photograph. Michael Emmet (Mike), on the left, had movie star good looks and a personality that veered from absolute angel to devil cat (but a nice devil cat.) He once bit me so badly when I intervened in a chipmunk attack that I needed hundreds of dollars of antibiotics and we had to go into hiding for 2 weeks so the humane society wouldn’t try to take him away for rabies observation. (I was late scheduling the rabies booster that year.) He died of liver disease two years ago at 15. Totally my fault he died so young – he liked to eat everything, including pizza, spaghetti, popcorn … you name it, he liked it and I let him eat it.
Sophia Rose (Sophie) on the right, was a little calico girl, with a funky crooked tail about four inches in length. The boss of the litter; but afraid of the doorbell, the vacuum and just about all people. Oddly, she had no fear of the outdoors and simply adored it, but was too curious for her own good. Her signature mishap was following the next door neighbor’s cat, whom she had a huge crush on, right into his house, then somehow hiding in an empty heating oil tank in their basement for four days while I frantically searched the neighborhood for her. She came home filthy, reeking of oil, hungry and exhausted. She got over the crush pretty quick after that. Did you know cats could have allergic reactions to insect bites just like people do? No, me neither, until Sophie got bitten by something that made her head swell up twice its normal size and left her gasping for air. Cats do not like children’s benadryl, especially since it’s cherry flavored. Sophie died this past August at 17, after a long battle with kidney disease.
If you were to look up my home address on Google Maps, you’d find a very blurry Mike and Sophie sitting on my front step, apparently watching the Google Map car drive down the street. Words cannot express how much I miss these two.
And finally, in the middle of the group, and here napping, is Jean-Luc, who ended up being just Jakey. He was badly misnamed — funny how the boldest kitten ended up being not the sharpest knife in the drawer as an adult. His tail is also somewhat defective, shaped like an upside down L – he looks like he’s carrying a little flag at all times. It’s now just Jakey and me. While he’s considered an elderly cat at 17, he’s never been sick a day in his life and my vet says he has the body of a 12 year old. He still climbs the chain link fence in the back yard like a monkey. Jakey is very possessive and a bit territorial, but he’s all bark and no bite. For the first time in his life, he’s an only cat. And I can’t figure out whether he’s lonely or not. Some days, I think he’s quite happy to have me all to himself. But then a few days ago, when a neighbor’s cat was in the yard, I found him looking at the other cat not with aggression, but with curiosity. Which isn’t like him – he usually pitches a hissy fit at all feline visitors to our yard. He paces the house howling sometimes, which is also something he has never done. I swear I think he’s looking for something. Or someone. He has the oddest personality of any cat I’ve ever had. Inscrutable, but in a slightly deranged way.
I wanted to wait at least a month after Sophie died until I even thought about bringing anyone new into the house, so a few weekends ago, I began visiting shelters. Each time, I came away feeling overwhelmed by the decision and keep putting it off. On one hand, the last thing I want to do bring another cat into the house, have Jakey hate him or her and end up making his remaining years unhappy. But on the other hand, he was always really tight with his brother and sister and he’s still a very active fellow — and a new housemate or two would most likely perk his remaining years up quite a bit.
Is it too soon and that’s why I’m so indecisive? Any suggestions? A pair of kittens? A young adult? A senior? How do you choose? I’ve never done the shelter thing before — my livestock has always been of the “hey, my cat had kittens” or “we found some kittens in a barn, do you want one?” variety. I’m leaning towards a pair of youngish adult cats, but would love some input.
What lovely cats, and great rescue story! I can’t imagine the noise when there are three hungry kittens to feed.
I am no help on the shelter front, since I’m in a similar position to you, and also don’t know what to do. I lost my two kitty girls last year, and since then, we’ve been integrating our mostly-outdoor, 10-year-old tabby Jack into the front of the house, hoping he chooses to be more inside than outside as he is starting to slow down a bit. He loves sleeping in the bed so much! But he’s still sort of skittish about anything new or different.
Your advantage is that Jakey has lived with other cats and enjoyed it. So he will probably be okay with, and even enjoy, having another cat in the house. But if you aren’t ready, it really won’t work. And everyone takes different amounts of time.
And it is possible Jakey is enjoying being an only cat. My girl who died at Christmas last year always just endured the other cat, and she just luxuriated in being an only cat in the last months of her life. Sometimes I think that’s why she defied all predictions for survival.
Werebear will have more useful thoughts on this (perhaps for both of us), which I look forward to reading, since your questions are exactly the same ones I’ve had.
ETA: first? really? am I the only one with insomnia this morning?
You could always foster kittens for the local shelter. Once they are ready for adoption, you simply give them up … or, like me, don’t, and suddenly you have more cats. :-)
I always had dogs and they definitely mourn if another pet dies although initially they love the extra attention.
Jakey will let you know.
Lovely story and lovely kitties. Jakey reminds me of my Mojii.
Perhaps you could adopt siblings, who already like each other. If Jake wants to hang out with them, fine. If he prefers not to, they will have each other. That way, no one will be lonely.
Have a nice day, Jakey. Hugs. [[ ]]
A good shelter will be able to give you some background on any cat you are considering-age, personality type, whether nor not they have lived with other cats, kids, etc. I have several shelter adoptions right now (servant to four cats and a dog myself) and would highly recommend it.
My late hubby and I had three kitties from the same litter, marked very much like yours. The calico had a crooked tail and was known in our house as the ‘slow cousin of cats’. They brought him so much companionship and joy. Anyhoo, after he died, the calico would set up with this unearthly yowling every night for several weeks at about bed time. They all obviously missed and mourned him, but she was so vocal about it.
Chris and Susan have it right. Work with a good shelter or two. They will probably have *older* cats (by that I mean > 2 yrs) who have lived with other cats. A kitten would just annoy Jake, I think.
I was in your position a couple of years ago, with a grieving male cat who wandered around the house crying for the best friend who was gone. I decided to get 2 kittens, on the rationale that he would have a hard time being grief-stricken and annoyed at the same time.
It worked out very well! The kittens had each other, so didn’t mind the older cat’s surliness, and they were definitely a great distraction for the old cat. He couldn’t resist their insane kitten antics; he’d hide in corners and leap out at them when they chased each other. And he stopped crying for the departed friend.
The old male cat is gone now. I’ve moved with the two kittens (now 6 years old) to rural Canada, where we’ve made a home for 2 stray cats that wandered up. The old US kitties have adjusted very well to living in the Canadian woods and being the elder cats to rambunctious young ones.
Where do you live? We had two kittens show up on our back door a couple months ago, we already had 7. You can have one of them!
I dunno, I’m the wrong person to ask, clearly. It’s not all hugs and kisses with our 9. Actually, one of our cats — the only one allowed outdoors — got disgusted when the two new kittens arrived and basically took his operation next door. We had kinda been sharing him with the neighbors anyway.
I am down to one elderly cat who’s friendly with ferals in the neighborhood (and just about anyone and everything else except prey and/or chihuahuas). I have been encouraging her to invite a cold and hungry friend to stay with us for the holidays, my history with cats being that they show up at the door when the household needs one.
(My all-time favorite cat was a feral alley cat in Philly we met as he was dining on the trash bags he’d ripped open. Even after being neutered, he never lost his streetfighter instincts. Vets would always pinch indelicate locations to be sure of his neutered status when I brought him in on account of yet one more defense of his yard. At around age 6, he became an indoor-only cat because he was too small and getting too old to win his battles. At 7, he developed urinary tract disorders but was saved by the newly invented Science Diet and lived on to 20. He really tuned in to humans and actually cared what I thought of his behavior, I think because he hated other cats, dogs, and probably everything four-footed.)
From an interview with Foxagandist owner Rupert Murdoch:
That alley cat I mentioned did the same thing when my invalid husband had a stroke and was hospitalized. That cat just howled and howled. I’d come home from the hospital at night, exhausted, and flop on the sofa; he’d jump on my back and sob and would not let me get up—he was little and light and old by then, but he’d dig in his claws. What a guy!
Such a meta cat thing to do. I love it.
I’ve known both good and bad experiences of bringing in new cats. One of my good friends had two cats. The older one died, the younger one (by a year or so) was moping around. So she went to the shelter and adopted an adult cat.
The old cat at first hated the new cat, he would harass her at every opportunity. Now, he seems as though he wants to be friends, but she will clout him in the head if he gets too close to her.
I had one cat and, thinking that he was lonely, adopted a second one. It took a couple months for them to adjust to each other, but they’ve been buds ever since. He’s now 14 and she’s 13. She has arthritis, now, and she’s not as up for playing as he wants. But he will groom her and they still sleep together from time to time.
It’s a real crapshoot to bring in a new cat.
What a wonderful story. I work for a shelter adoption service, and can attest that you never know. You never know who’s going to like whom, or what will happen when you take a particular little hummer home. It usually works out fine. BUT there’s another option. Most rescue groups (see Petfinder.com) are always looking for foster homes for intakes while they search for permanent homes. Most of the cats are young, sometimes kittens litters at a time. So you’re borrowing them, and if you want to keep them you will be celebrated with palm fronds and incense. I fostered a litter when I was down to one lonely, fraidy middle-aged cat who had never got on well with anyone. He adored the kittens, acting very paternal and playful, so I kept two of them. The three are now inseparable. So who knows? Good luck to you and Jean-Luc.
What a wonderful story!
My advice would be to bring in another middle aged or elderly male. I would say avoid bringing home a female cat: IME they tend to be possessive of you and jealous of other cats.
Male cats – at least the ones I’ve had – tend to be Big Happy Goofy Guys. Not much interested in fighting.
Best of luck!
Thanks everyone. I am thinking that two housemate or sibling younger cats might work the best, but haven’t run across that combination yet. I had a vague plan for when this brood was gone to only adopt older or special needs cats or perhaps foster (yeah right, I’ll give ’em back).
But for some reason, it never occurred to me that eventually, I’d have only only one survivor, who might not be happy with the situation.
@Phyllis: Heh. At one point, I had 8 cats and 3 dogs, and was living down the street from a self-proclaimed priestess of Bast.
The two youngest cats in the group, brother and sister and related to none of the older cats, disappeared one day. It turned out they’d both moved in with the Bast priestess up the street. I guess cats know it when they see a better deal.
From experience, I’d go with a pair that know each other, even if they are kittens. We’ve got a mixed bag of salvaged cats, and when we took in the last one when the friend of ours he lived with died, the single young cat coupled with three cats over 10 made for a great deal of discontent until Tiger grew up a bit and the others figured out (for the most part) how to deal with him. If they are about the same age and can take it out on each other it makes the relationships work better while they are getting to know each other and how their lives are going to work.
I’ve tried a couple time over the years to adopt an older male cat and our adult male tuxedo simply will not have it. He’s a pretty laid back guy but not when another adult male feline comes in the house.
But when I brought home a stray male kitten this summer, he was fine with it. Maybe the youngster was less threatening? Dunno. Cats will do what cats want to do, basically.
I like the advice about fostering. The cat rescue groups in this area are begging for foster homes.
I have thought about this situation since my 2 are both 13 and decided that whoever survives gets to be an only cat for the rest of their life. Gonzo would prefer to be an only cat right now and Patrick deserves to be an only cat after having to put up with Gonzo for his entire life.
You Don't Say
Lovely cats. The female calico’s eyes look human. My Jean Luc passed away last Christmas.
No idea about bringing in another cat, but think you’re idea of two youngish cats is a good idea. If Jakey doesn’t like them they’ll have each other and can leave him alone. Or as someone else suggested, fostering some kittens is a good idea. You can always let them go if Jakey hates them or keep them if he doesn’t. Good luck!
I have an older male cat, and here’s my advice as a long-time cat person. Adopt (or foster) a pair of male kittens, the younger the better. Male adults seem to get along best with other male cats. It took my oldster six months before he warmed to them, but now he gets along famously with the male of the sibling pair of abandoned kittens I adopted. Not so much with the female, whom he just tolerates most of the time, but the kittens (now adults) have always had each other. Adult cats are much more forgiving/accepting of kittens than of other adults, and if you foster first you’ll have an even better chance of ending up with the right additions to your household.
I, too, anticipated waiting at least a year after losing my favorite cat ever to old age, but when an abandoned litter turned up in my neighborhood just a few months later, I couldn’t refuse to help them. I’m glad I didn’t wait, the kittens turned out to be the most wonderful pets I’ve ever had.
Same issue here. Lost two older cats in the lat six months. Remaining younger cat, about nine, wanders the house wailing. Not sure why.
Could be she’s celebrating her new found singularity. Don’t think she’s mourning. Probably just calling out to see if there’s anyone nearby that she can boss around.
We had a tom who lived to be eighteen, outlasting two of his housemates. He began to do the pacing and howling at night as well, but the vet diagnosed it as a thyroid imbalance.
We gave the cat his medicine and the howling stopped.
This might be worth checking out.
Aw, beautiful babies, all three. I so love these animal rescue stories. I like the idea of fostering as well. It would be a win-win situation all around.
PLEASE don’t get another cat or kittens until Jakey is gone. He will feel replaced and will suffer if you allow new cats into the house. I speak from personal experience!
Just Some Fuckhead
This sounds like Angela from The Office.
When I lost a Siamese to kidney disease who I had raised from a tiny kitten, my other cat who was five years younger and had only known the Siamese from when he was a tiny kitten was inconsolable for about two weeks. Maybe he was reacting to me when I was around, but he did the same things. The worst was when he sat in the upstairs hall, where most of the chasing began, and just howled. After that, he was very clingy until about a year later the most beautiful cat in the world came into the house as another tiny kitten, and they bonded and chased each other around until he got too old for it.
By that time my wife and I had gotten married and there were other cats around so it wasn’t as wrenching. But all of them missed TC after he was gone.
House cats are much more social creatures than people sometimes give them credit for.
There’s a difference? We adopted a male and he not only seemed to be lonely, come to find out he was yowling when we left the house. Now we didn’t find that out until we got him a companion about a year after we got him. He was a little “ill-disposed” to us taking her in (slowly raised paw, “why you little …” hehe) but when we mentioned to our upstairs neighbor that we got a new cat, she mentioned how she hadn’t heard the yowling after we left for work every day.
Cats are social creatures. Sometimes interaction with people a few times a day is enough, but sometimes it’s not. I’d be willing to bet if you’ve lost a cat (I’m so sorry) and your cat is yowling, there’s an empty hole there. Maybe yours will be fine in the long run, but ours obviously needed someone.
I third or fourth the suggestion that you go through a rescue organization or a good shelter. They should be able to tell you what each of the cats’ personalities is like and if they get along well with other cats. The idea of two younger cats is good, but you probably don’t want young kittens (like under 6 months or so) because they’ll drive the older one nuts.
Keaton picked me (he reached out of his cage at the Petco adoption event and grabbed me by the arm) but the rescue org was able to tell us that he really liked other cats, so we brought him home to keep Boris company since Boris was moping around after Natasha died of cancer.
Boris wasn’t super-thrilled at first, but Keaton is Mr. Charm and Personality, so he ended up winning him over and they would wrestle and play despite the age difference (Boris was already 12 when we got Keaton). When Boris was slowly dying of kidney failure, Keaton kept him groomed and the vet always said he was the best-looking dying cat she’d ever seen.
Sometimes an older cat will enjoy caring for a kitten or an older cat. Or not. They’re cats, and there’s just no way to know for sure. If it were me, I’d adopt a pair so that if Jakey didn’t like them, they would still have each other. But then I’m nuts.
I’ve got 7 feline overlords currently, and they’re grouped into age cohorts. One is about 17 or 18, and I worried that she would be upset by the youngsters, but she just ignores them. The next one is 8, and she too doesn’t have much to do with the babies. Then two kitties are 5, one is 3, and the last pair are less than 2. These five get along well, and the 5-year-olds love parenting the babies. Occasionally they can even get the older ones playing along too. It probably shouldn’t have worked out so well, but it has.
Your babies were/are beautiful. What great stories!
Okay, I had a 20 yo female who died & left her 18 yo buddy behind. She never loved him but he followed her like a puppy for 15 years I had them both. Within a week of her death, I went to the shelter & picked out 2 females, 2 & 5 years.
I know from long experience that it is better to introduce an opposite sex cat generally, but all introductions have to be ‘done right’. I wanted the young ones to have each other (old dude will pass sooner), but to defer to the old man as long as he lives.
You need to keep the new one(s) in a separate room for several days so the ‘main cat’ can sniff around the door(s), know there’s foreign cats in the house & get used to that. Gotta be patient. Then, see how the 1st meeting goes, and separate again if necessary. Don’t let the new one sit in Jakey’s chair or sleep in his spot, etc..
My 18 yo is now 20 & he should be dead, given all that’s wrong w/him. I believe they have extended his life, & certainly the quality of it. It took no time for all 3 to be at peace together, but about a year for him to really, well, like (?) their nutty ways (they were feral & can’t go outside ever, for other reasons). The girls defer to him on everything,even though he’s slower, skinnier, deaf & almost blind. They show genuine concern when we give him IV fluids & he complains. He gets mad when they try to lick him or snuggle w/him sometimes…only sometimes. He’s entitled.
That’s a great story. I’m glad you had so many wonderful years with them all!
Please try kittens…the younger the better. Here’s my method of introduction…don’t let the “resident” cat know it was you that brought the kittens in. Put them in a large crate in the middle of a room and let him/her find them. Let it be all about the older cat, praising him all the while for his discovery. Keep them separated by the cage or a door until they all get used to the smell of the other. So far this has worked well for me. Until last month I had 8 “babies”. Just lost my 12 year old deaf cat to a mass in her abdomen. Two of mine are .”special needs ” kitties. You might consider a kitten who is a “wobbly cat” or some other kitten with special needs. Good luck!
We had a similar scenario and got younger cats.
We had three cats who we got at various times, who were together for about 6-7 years. The oldest died, then a little more than a year later, the youngest died. We were left with a fairly small but spry 15 year old cat.
We had always adopted adult cats, but this time we decided to get two kittens. They would provide some companionship, but would keep each other busy so our old kitty could relax. When we went to the shelter, there was a pair of black female kittens. We arranged to adopt them, but the person at the shelter told us that there was a one-year-old who was basically their surrogate mother.
Sure enough, when we saw the three of them together, he groomed them an played with them. We adopted all three.
The sisters are not very well socialized to people. One has finally begun sleeping on our bed, but will not let you pick her up except to feed her. The other one wants nothing to do with us. Both of them leave the old kitty alone.
The surrogate mom has no manners whatsoever. He has broken more of our stuff than the rest of the cats we’ve ever had combined. We can no longer leave anything on the kitchen counters unless we plan for it to be on the floor, broken or spilled. When he decides it is time for breakfast, he licks earlobes and walks across you (he’s close to 20 pounds) until you get out of the bed.
He torments the old kitty. Constantly sniffing her butt, which she hates because it offends her dignity. Ambushing her. Sleeping in her spot.
He is super affectionate but will not sit on a lap or sleep curled up with us. He purrs loudly and constantly. He will flop onto your feet until you pet him.
After a succession of cats who love to nest with us, it is weird getting three young cats and not having a single one of them be nesters.
The point of this post, if there is one, is that getting multiple younger cats has worked out for us.
in medias res
I apologize if someone else has said this – but am on the fly and if there is anything I have an opinion on it is adopting cats. And this is from someone who has had a string of kittens and dearly loved them all. But I would never adopt one again – the number of outstanding adult cats at the shelters would break your heart – grown up, fully formed characters who are all gonna die because kittens are cute. And yes they are, but just go look at the grown ups – seven times out of ten they will look back at you, right in the eye. I like that in my companions. Good luck.