Question: “Should we adopt an adult cat or kitten?”
Larry W asks, “Barb and I put our female cat Moa down last fall due to cancer. She had been with us about 10-12 years, and we got her full grown from a rescue organization. A month or so later we got Sylvester, male, also full grown, from the same organization. We also now have two miniature poodles that Barb has spoiled rotten. When we brought Sylvester home and released him from the cage he immediately went downstairs to the basement like his tail was on fire, and I didn't see him for days even though the food was disappearing from the bowl and the litter box was being used. I knew he was hiding under the stairs but ignored him. Time passed and he started to come out from his hiding and fear of me when we’d see him in the kitchen peering around the corner into the living room. Even today, he will still run for the basement when someone comes over. I think Sylvester is part chicken. :-)
Today with Moa gone, Sylvester is climbing in my chair and lap and visits both of us in the bathroom for some petting. It gets busy with two dogs, a cat and two hands. :-) I told you all this so you'd understand the situation because Barb misses Moa and wants another cat. I'm cool with that, I like cats.
Would you recommend a full grown cat or a kitten? If a kitten, about how old? Then there is the matter of the critters getting along. I appreciate your time and any advice and experience you will share.”
What a great question! First I must say how sorry I am that you and Barb lost Moa. When a kitty becomes a part of our lives and hearts, they leave a hole when they’re gone. By looking at the pets’ health and environment, and other factors, some general recommendations can be made based on results from the H.I.S.S. Test.
The healthiest pets do the best during introductions. Poor health causes stress, and when an animal feels bad, he won’t feel like meeting and greeting anyone new. At age 10-12 years, Sylvester could be quite healthy or he could have issues that are hidden, or that were not indicated in your question. I have no information about the dogs, and they also figure in the decision. Before introducing a new pet, be sure that your current critters are healthy—or that you know their health status and can address those issues.
You characterize Sylvester as “part chicken” and a fearful feline. Actually, that urge to hide at any hint of “stranger danger” is a survival instinct and he comes by it quite honestly. Anything that’s not familiar could potentially mean injury or death. Cats tend to be, “the glass is half empty” pessimists in this regard. You don’t mention how he got along with Moa, but the fact he’s now soliciting more attention than before tells me she probably ruled the roost. He’s just now feeling comfortable enough to demand and enjoy time with his people.
Every cat is different. Some are simply born more shy than others. From your description Sylvester appears to be one of these sensitive, anxious types. All cats get their tails in a twist when new cats come into the home—some get over it very quickly and others don’t. I suspect Sylvester might take it hard, and return to hiding. And at his age, added stress could potentially increase his risk for health issues.
S=Symptom, Signs & Solutions
Your question—adult or kitten, what age is best—isn’t as simple as it seems. Very generally (and there are always exceptions!), I recommend choosing a cat of the opposite sex that is younger than the resident kitty. Based on your description of Sylvester’s personality, a laid-back confident (but not pushy) spayed female cat, friendly to dogs, age two-to-four years would be my choice. Many are available from shelters and you'd be saving a life! I fear that a kitten would either be afraid of the dogs or harass them and the old cat-guy, and he needs his golden years to be enjoyable. Several articles are available on how to properly introduce your cat.
I would also ask you to consider perhaps waiting to adopt another cat. Since Sylvester has both literally and figuratively “come out of the basement” why not give him all the attention he desires? At his age, he may not have many more years left. And when the time comes, perhaps you can adopt a pair of kittens at the same time.