The Vine: December 16, 2015
I'm writing to you with yet another cat question as I know you've introduced new cats into your house at different times over the years.
(Longtime reader, and my husband the Cat Person owes you for convincing me to give cats a try in the first place.)
My husband and I adopted a pair of adult cats 11 years ago, and one of them passed away last month after a short, aggressive illness. It was, of course, the cat that chose me for his human, and I miss him so, so much. He was a great cat even if he did weird things like chew on my hair while I was asleep and lick rice cereal a/k/a library paste off the kids' high chair trays. While I'm sure other cats are wonderful in their own ways, I know there is not going to be another Cranky McBiterson. The other cat decided the day he moved in that my husband was his personal servant and seeks me out only when his preferred person is unavailable or I have something he'd like a bite of.
Left up to me alone, I'm not sure that I am ready for another cat. I think my husband will defer to whatever I want (though he is the Cat Person in our house, would be happy to have more of them, and thinks the remaining cat is lonely). While our elementary-school-aged kids have asked repeatedly about getting another cat, they're really not that into the one(s) we have/had, perhaps because the cats are older than they are and have always been Mom and Dad's pets and not theirs. (And years of "Don't pull the cat's tail/back the cat into a corner/shriek at the cat/lick the cat [yes, I know the cat licks himself, but that doesn't mean you can, too]/touch the cat while he's eating/etc.") It's the surviving cat that I worry about.
Which brings me to my actual question, which relates to companionship for our now-only cat, who is essentially Pinky without The Brain. (This cat always struck me as having a number of things in common with Little Joe, though he prefers Peeps to yogurt.) He is 12 years old, still active/playful, very sociable, and, being half-Siamese, chatty and freakin' LOUD. He is also, after gorging himself on the veritable buffet we put out for the sick cat to entice him to eat, fat. Really fat. We have no idea if he realizes his brother is gone, and, while he has been much more clingy than he used to be, we are not enduring mournful caterwauling at night. He's not any more destructive (than usual, thank goodness for replaceable Ikea sofa covers) and is behaving as normally as he ever has.
He is alone in he house for at least 8 hours 3-4 days a week. I get the sense that most cats are solitary, territorial creatures who may tolerate the presence of certain other cats, but this one seems to be part dog and enjoy company and attention. (I mean, he waits until someone is watching to dramatically throw himself on the floor and play dead, for god's sake, he wants attention.) And, after pointedly ignoring them for the past 8 years, he has even deigned to start acknowledging that our children exist because our younger one will pet, play with, and pay attention to him. We recently went away for a weekend, and the friend who always cat-sits for us mentioned that he seemed lonely and spent nearly a half-hour playing and being petted before turning to the food she put down.
So, how does one know when a pet "needs" a friend, given that, despite his Mabel-level conversational skills and volume, Pinky doesn't speak English? And, if we were to reach a point we would consider adding a second cat, how do you find another cat that can happily coexist with a weird, half-Siamese/half-dachshund hybrid that literally NARF!s when he plays and did not, after a decade of having his tail bitten on a semi-daily basis, know not to rub under the other cat's chin when food was on the line? I don't think we're kitten people, but is an adult cat going to put up with Pinky's nonsense? I assume that they also do not speak English and can't be interviewed for the position.
At least when I tell the human kids to "use their words" I understand what comes out of their mouths
If you think he's lonely, he's probably lonely. It's sometimes a little harder to tell with a Siamese what's loneliness or plaintive "get me a friend" chatter and what's…just them sometimes acting kind of…simple? No offense, Siamese owners, but Hobey had an Abyssinian part and an intelligent part and those parts did not touch each other, so yeah.
Pinky's probably fine; if Little Joe hadn't come along, Hobey would have been fine too. Mabel would have been fine without Pearl. ("Um, NO KIDDING." – Mabel. "…Fwee?" – Pearl, hopefully.) But I think it's nice for a cat to have another creature in the house like him, even if they don't particularly like each other or really hang out, which has been the case with all the various cat-figurations in my…well, I was going to say "my adult life," but the cat pairs I grew up with barely tolerated each other.
I wouldn't necessarily go kitten. You're not home quite enough, I think, and while it sounds like your kids are old enough not to terrorize a tiny creature, it's sometimes better to skip the whole "this isn't tiny and cute anymore" portion of the program. But you're lucky because, in my experience, it's easier to get a reigning male cat to accept another cat than it is a reigning female. After a year and a half, Mabel and Pearl still hate each other; Pearl would like to sleep with us, but Mabel is Not Having That No Sirree, so Pearl spends many nights in the doorway of the bedroom, in a loaf shape, looking hopeful. I didn't have this problem with the Hobe and Joe — Hobey didn't like it, exactly, but he made room — and when Mabel came along, same thing. Joe tried to set boundaries a couple times, but Princess Micro was like "whatever Fats" and stepped right over him. I'm sure someone has had a good experience with an incumbent girl cat not giving a new arrival the business, but I find it's less likely.
So, maybe browse the local shelters or see if your vet knows about anyone looking to adopt out a grown kitty, or Google "Siamese rescue" — it sounds like a lot, but maybe you want to get another bonded pair so you don't have to send me this same letter again in 3-4 years. Not to be morbid, but…you know.
But you don't have to decide today, and if you do decide Pinky will just have to make do with evening companionship and the occasional looped DVD of mice and bees, well, he'll make do.
Tags: cats fat cats Hobey Little Joe orange cats Pearl small white cats so I says to Mabel I says tiny grey cats