Cats/When to get another cat
QUESTION: Hello Ali,
About 5 weeks ago, we had to put down our domestic short hair due to a suspected brain tumor (grand mal seizures). It was and still is very painful for my wife and I. While I'm not sure I'm ready for another cat as of yet, our other cat has been extremely lonely (they were together for 15 years). I've read a lot of info on the subject and everyone has a different opinion. What works for some might not work for others I guess. My question to you is at what time should we look into adopting so our lone cat has some companionship? The cat that passed was a alfa male and while he bullied his brother around on occasion, they had a great bond together. My wife and I spend a lot of time with our cat now, but after a day with us not there, we can hear him whaling by the door when we get home. We have recently spoke with a behavior specialist and she recommended not even looking into getting another cat for 6 months to a year. Certainly not to take away from her advice as in the end we know our cat best, but I'd appreciate your input on this matter. We sure could use all the advice we can get. Thanks for your time.
I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your feline friend. Losing your cat is obviously very painful for you, my heart goes out to you and my thoughts are with you, your wife and your cat.
While everyone from veterinarians to behavioral experts to grief counselors has a different viewpoint on when the right time to get another pet is after a beloved pet dies I've come to the conclusion that there is no absolute "right" choice that works for absolutely everyone. I can tell you what my opinion is based on my own personal experience and hope that it helps you to make your own decision based on what you feel in your heart.
The last loss of a cat that we experienced in our household was heartbreaking and tragic as all of these losses are. Our 11 month old kitten crashed one day after repeated visits to the vet for non-specific type issues, fevers, malaise, anorexia, infections without direct causes and other symptoms. The last weekend of Jellybean's life was heart wrenching for us because we knew that she had given up. We went to the vet first thing Monday morning after having been in touch off and on all weekend with the notion that we wouldn't leave the clinic until we knew for sure what was making our girl so sick. When the test results came back it was bad. Our veterinarian felt that while there is no conclusive test available to firmly diagnose FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) our baby had the dry form which is clinically harder to diagnose. At this point Jellybean had lost all interest in food, life, play and other things that she enjoyed and based on our vet's information we learned that getting her back so that she could have a good quality of life for any length of time was hopeless. We made the agonizing decision to let our girl fly free. Our hearts were broken, we grieved, we wished for her back, we hurt just like all other pet parents do when they have to say goodbye to a much loved companion. We said goodbye to our girl on February 27, 2012.
On April 5, 2012 I broke my routine - I went for coffee at a local coffee shop in the evening. When I came out of the coffee shop I noticed a towel in the drive thru that was moving. I was understandably concerned about what the towel might contain, but to my relief and horror when I opened the towel I met a tiny, frightened kitten who we later determined was about four weeks old. Obviously I simply couldn't leave her there so I stuck her inside of my jacket and brought her home with me. This precious girl helped to ease the grief in our hearts, not by replacing Jellybean, but by giving us another focus - her immediate needs and survival. Serena, as we later named her needed quite a bit of extra TLC, she was traumatized and we suspect neglected to the point of abuse based on how afraid she was of life in general. When you have a bottle baby in the house it becomes difficult to remain focused on a broken heart. In rehabilitating Serena and providing her with a permanent loving home to call her very own we believe that Jellybean would be proud. Jellybean was also a rescue kitty, so she knew the value of a good home and I'm sure that if she had been able to ask us for one final wish she would have wished for us to save another life by rescuing another kitten in need.
Serena will never replace Jellybean and our hearts still ache for our precious girl sometimes, but we've come to think of Serena as Jellybean's final gift to us - a way to ease our broken hearts until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge. I'm not saying that our choice would work for everyone, but sometimes just having another heartbeat at your side can help to ease the pain of loss. Some veterinarians that I know actually recommend adopting another pet as soon as possible while others are careful to suggest that you take the time that you need to grieve your loss and not expect your new companion to be the same as your lost friend. I believe that if you wanted to adopt a companion for your remaining cat, the cat you lost would be proud knowing that you've continued his legacy of love by saving a life. Shelters and rescues are always looking for foster parents to be guardians over cats and kittens in need so that they may have a chance at their very own forever family so fostering for your local shelter or rescue may be another option to consider if you don't feel completely ready to adopt. If you do decide to adopt and you'd like some input on how to choose your next feline companion I'd be more than happy to help you out with a few pointers.
Hopefully this helps, if you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me again at any time - I'm more than happy to help in any way that I can.
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QUESTION: Thank you very much for all your advice, and for sharing your story. I as well am very sorry for your loss. It is nice to find people as passionate with animals as my wife and I. I hate to take up your time, but if you could give me advice on the right time to allow our surviving cat (Ferdinand) to grieve. From what we've read, it's important to get rid of the scent of the cat who has passed, meaning we would need to put away his toys and mat he slept on by the spare bedroom window (don't know how easy that would be for either of us). As I mentioned before, Advocado was the alpha male even though we had Ferdi first. Do we need to get another alpha male cat or would Ferdi feel threatened by another cat with a dominant personality? I realize the Humane Society would allow us to bring the cat back if things didn't work out, but I'd be heartbroken to adopt and have to bring a cat back. The Humane society close to us is a no kill shelter and while small, they have a great group of people working with the animals. My wife, who started her own pet treat business out of our house earlier this year donates treats as part of an adoption program. We'd like to see about bring in our cat to see how he would interact with some of the cats there on a solo basis. What do you think of that? Once again thanks for all your time and input.
Based on what you've said it sounds to me like Ferdinand might be lonely and ready to accept a new friend, but the important thing to consider is whether you and your wife are ready to adopt.
If your local shelter allows Ferdinand to come in and interact with the cats and kittens perhaps he can choose his new friend, however I wouldn't advise this unless Ferdinand is up to date on his vaccines AND the shelter cats are tested for Feline Leukemia (which is highly contagious between cats). I'm sure that you wouldn't want to risk Ferdinand or his health. That being said, many shelters have "get acquainted" rooms where you can meet potential new family members one on one, but again policies differ between shelters as to whether owned animals are allowed to come in and be a part of the process.
I'm wondering if perhaps fostering with the possibility of adoption might be an idea that would work well - that way you would take on the cat or kitten knowing that they may not stay... If they work well with Ferdinand then you can adopt, if not then they stay with you as long as they need to. It has been my experience that when it comes to a submissive cat you can pair them with just about any other cat or kitten. Proper introductions are of course important and it's crucial to realize that you can't just bring in a new cat or kitten and let them have the run of the house (that would seriously upset Ferdinand!).
Hopefully this helps, if you have any further questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me at any time - I'm more than happy to help in any way that I can.