Friday, October 5, 2018

Expanding Your Cat Family: How to Facilitate Success (with Sisters or Brothers from Other Mothers)

Matchmaking (Part One)

By Karen Zamel

Bringing a rescue or foster cat (or kitten) into a home with resident cats is a fairly a typical scenario for pet lovers.  After all, as most of us discovered early on, you can’t have just one. 

The challenges can be many – and sometimes unpredictable.  Age, gender, experience, breed, and even how the animals are acclimated in the new environment can affect and change behavior.  Our most recent rescue, Oreo, got along harmoniously with our three other resident rescues for all of two months, until he claimed ownership of a little stone water fountain in our living room.  After Halley (our only female rescue) had the audacity to drink out of it in front of him, he’s acted aggressively toward her ever since.

Enter the expert, Jessica Char.  As the founder of Feline Engineering ( and past Behavior Associate at the Humane Society Silicon Valley, Jessica focuses on providing insight to and solving cat behavior problems.

Together, with Jessica, we’ve created a three-part series intended to address the three key milestones of successful cat integration: 

  1. Matchmaking
  2. Introductions
  3. Troubleshooting
Today, we’re starting today with part one:  Matchmaking

Q: How do we know if cats or kittens we choose to foster or adopt will be compatible with our resident cats?

Jessica: There are no simple formulas to making the perfect match but you can consider a few factors to give yourself to best chance. One common myth is that if you have a male cat you have to get a female (or vice versa). Actually, gender and age aren’t the most important factors. Instead, considering energy level and personality is more likely to lead to a compatible pair. A mellow senior may not appreciate a playful kitten. History plays a role too; if you know a cat has a history of liking other cats then you will probably have an easier time, though that’s no guarantee. 

Q: Does that mean I can’t bring home a kitten if I have a senior cat?

Jessica: Not necessarily! It just means that bringing home a kitten and expecting your resident cat to love them immediately probably isn’t realistic or fair. You’ll need to put in more time and effort to help them live happily together. This is actually a great reason to adopt TWO kittens; the kittens can wear each other out and leave your senior out of the chaos (you’ll still need to manage them though!).

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If you have additional questions for Jessica or experiences you would like to share, please post them here.  We can all benefit from the dialogue!

To adopt kittens/cats in need of homes, please go to our adoptable cats page

Karen Zamel is a long-term supporter, communications volunteer, foster parent, and adopter with Silicon Valley Pet Project and San Jose Animal Advocates.

For more information on Jessica Char and Feline Engineering, follow her on Facebook and Instagram: