Iris was 11 when she joined our household.
We weren’t sure how well the gentle blue creampoint Siamese would do with our cats: She’d been on her own for quite a while, after a few years of being bullied unmercifully by Stormy, her late Abyssinian housemate.
Technically, we should have kept our new-old girl in a separate room and introduced her gradually to our cats-in-residence. But my husband was a great believer in letting the felines sort things out among themselves. He’d been right often enough that I had come around to his way of thinking on the subject.
So Iris was allowed to go wherever she wanted. She got along beautifully with the rest of the gang. Part of that may have been thanks to her personality.
The other factor, which I’d failed to consider, was that she had been raised in a cattery. So, although Stormy had been a problem for her, other cats weren’t.
Older Cats vs. Kittens
Older cats, of course, have a harder time getting adopted.
A lot of people don’t want to deal with a cat who has less time to give them. But, as the American Humane Association sees it, you’re often better off with one, especially if you have “a very laid-back, elderly or frail kitty at home.” A kitten may just be too much for that cat to deal with.
Furthermore, by adopting a mature feline “you will be able to assess more of his or her personality than you will be able to for a kitten.” And that could improve the feline peace talks at your house.
However, your adult cat is unlikely to feel threatened by a kitten. In fact, a new kit on the block might even bring a spark of life back to an older cat who has just lost its companion, as author Doreen Tovey discovered when she and her husband adopted a male Siamese kitten after the death of their Sealpoint, Solomon.
Seeley, “the new boy,” stopped Sheba from pining after her litter mate and added some precious time to her life.
This video shows an older cat and a new kitten, who clearly has a lot more energy:
None of this means that bringing an older cat in will backfire — it just means that it more often than not has to be handled more carefully.
Separate But Equal
The 4Paws Rescue Team advocates the separate-room practice. No face-to-face meetings for at least the first week, and only then when carefully supervised.
Use the same brush or comb on all the cats in order “to get their scents on each other.” Swapping towels or blankets back and forth will also do the trick.
You can even let your cats go into the new kitty’s room when he’s in another part of the house and let them gradually take in the fact that they’ve got a new roomie.
I think the approach depends on the cat. With Boris, my elderly lodger-cat, I let the others into his room for short visits. They ate his food, used his scratching post and litter box, and basically behaved as though it was an open house.
He presided over it all with good-natured befuddlement, shooting a tired look my way when he’d had enough of his guests. But it did help him become one of the gang.
Responsible breeders retire their queens and studs early. They spay/neuter the cats, then place them in good homes. That’s how Fey and Moonlight came to me.
Spay surgery followed by a transfer to a new home may be a double whammy for a former queen. But, as one Somali breeder said to me, “Every transition with older cats takes longer. A kitten might hide under a bed a couple of days — but everything is new to them, and they adjust quickly.”
Still, this particular breeder has only “placed a few right after spaying. Usually, I wait until they’ve recovered.”
Taking It Slow
Iris may have been one of the exceptions to the older-cat rule. Yes, most of them take their time settling in. Be patient. Give them time, and they will adjust. Boris is gone now, but his last few weeks were spent hanging out in his room with his new friends keeping him company.