DEAR JOAN: I had two beautiful Burmese cats until November 2020, when one died of heart failure. I and my other cat, his half-brother, were heartbroken.
Freddie, my remaining cat, is very lonely and even though I work from home, I am not enough for him. When he is awake, he wants company. He had a constant companion for 15 years of his life. He is active and playful. He has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, but is doing very well so far.
I am bringing a new kitten home on Dec. 16. I know I need to gradually introduce them, but I am concerned about leaving a little kitten in a room all by himself all night. He will be a little over three months and will be used to his mother and liter mates.
Do you have any suggestions as to how to make the process easy on Freddie and my new kitten? I think Freddie will be happier having a cat in the house, even in the beginning. He really — really, really — does not like being alone. Burmese are better with an animal companion.
Both cats will be 100% indoors. Also, thinking of the kitten’s comfort, how warm should I keep the house at night until he can come into the bedroom?
Paula, San Jose
DEAR PAULA: My condolences to you and Freddie on the loss of your companion. We know how tough it is to lose a pet, but we often don’t realize just how much a surviving pet might be hurting. You obviously are tuned in to Freddie’s needs and feelings.
Even though Freddie might be ready for a new friend, you should move slowly so you don’t accidentally create some territorial issues. Start by creating individual places for the cats to stay by setting up separate litter boxes, beds and feeding stations.
Even though Freddie might have had the run of the house, he’ll need a space where he can be isolated while the new kitten is allowed to explore. This way, the kitten can learn Freddie’s scent, and when Freddie is roaming the house, he can start to smell the new kitten.
Know that the first meeting might not go well. Bring them together and let them sniff each other. Be ready to step in should things get physical, and if it does, separate them and allow everyone to calm down before trying again.
You can offer treats and encourage play. Be sure to praise Freddie and reassure him he’s not being replaced.
Establish a routine for feeding, playtime and bedtime. Cats like schedules and it’s best to stick to the one you already have with Freddie.
Except for supervised meetings, keep them apart for a few days. You can put towels in their beds and then swap them so that each cat learns to recognize the scent of the other.
Before bed, do some extended play with the kitten to tire it out, which will make it sleep better. Cats like confined spaces to feel secure, so you might consider a cozy, partially enclosed bed.
Very young kittens — 2 weeks old — need an ambient temperature of about 85 degrees, but as your kitten will be 3 months, it should be comfortable at 78 degrees. You might want to look into getting a heated bed or a special heating pad for cats, which will also help with feelings of loneliness.
Have a question for Joan?
Use this form to submit questions. Photos should be mailed separately to [email protected]