My husband Thomas and I adopted our first cat – Avery, a stray we found in our garden – back in 2013.
He was an only-child cat for years upon years, as I because we were trying to figure out which country we wanted to make a permanent home in, we moved from Canada to the UK, and then a few years later, took him with us by plane again, this time to Portugal, and in that time did not want to look for another cat to take in.
After a few months of living in our new home in Portugal, we fell in love with another stray cat, Bjorn, who frequented our garden and took him in back in 2019.
We were afraid to wait and lose him to a drunk driver, like one of the other three Persian cats who swung by our house daily lost his life to.
Eventually we realized the other Persian cats needed helped, too. They were in such bad condition, but we hadn’t realized how bad until we got to know them and pet them.
We did our best to help them by cutting off some of their matts, but it was too much, and needed complete shaving, which would put them at risk of injury in a cat fight if they stayed outside.
One would even itch to the point where she bled (we found out later, due to allergies). So one by one, we took in the cats at the rate that we could.
Not all of these cats stayed with us, and the cats were not allowed to freely roam and share spaces with each other, but the house smelled of other cats who were separated for a very long time.
And Avery, our poor only child cat for so very long, had to live with the anxiety and stress of so much change and so many new threats to his status quo (as I’ve come to see his anxiety) that the new cats in the home brought.
But let me tell you how all of that changed over time.
What My First Cat Was Like Before I Adopted More Cats
As a baseline, my only child first cat – Avery – was definitely what I would consider a nervous type. He’d jump at new, abrupt noises, he was a bit jittery.
Didn’t like new people all that much. A complete sweetheart and I wouldn’t say he led a stressed life, but his mannerisms were definitely on the neurotic side, which I assume is something he got from me because I am 100% a neurotic type of person, and I do think we rub off on our kitties.
It could also be the fact that he was a feral/stray when we found him. And he likely carried some trauma from his experiences before we met. But who’s to say why he was the way that he was.
Either way, calm and cuddly as high heaven, but always a bit on the edge in a way that he would never lash out, but may have run off to hide or shook in fear from having to deal with new situations. Still brave in comparison to most cats, but he definitely used me and plenty of cuddles to cope, and developed a touch of separation anxiety.
Jump Forward: New Cat #1
I’ve written in length on this before, but basically when we took in our second cat, Bjorn, I was trying my absolute best to make sure the two would get along, slowly introducing them and always monitoring them, but I was petrified of things like this and couldn’t relax for months.
It was strange, but I quickly figured out that the problem was not the new cat himself or that there even was a new cat in the home, but that the situation caused stress and anxiety in my first cat that sometimes boiled over and caused him to lash out.
So essentially I figured out that his personality didn’t change, like a lot of pet parents think their cats’ personality does, but rather his stress level changed and that caused him to act out a lot.
I wrote a very long article describing what I did to make these two get along in such a way that my first cat, Avery, could be calmer and happier about the idea of sharing his space.
If you need some more tips after reading that because you find yourself in a similar situation, check out this article where I tried to help someone who brought in a new kitten into her previously single-cat home.
I would do things like put Avery in a carrier while playing with Bjorn – as these types of instances where Bjorn was aggressive would stress Avery out a lot. Eventually, he could watch Bjorn play without getting upset and angry. But it took time.
After a while, we went through that whole headache shebang of me taking in as many of the cats who needed help as I could, keeping them separate depending on who got along with who, and trying to help them get along by giving each cat their own space and time to be kept in their own room, versus out and free throughout the house.
It was some time before we finally got to the point where I new which cats I was keeping and which I was adopting out, but finally it came down to three. Avery, Bjorn, and one last of the cats, Athos, were all staying with me, and the others found a home with my brother. So I am still all their aunties.
Nowadays: Months Later in a 3 Cat Household
My two newer-to-the-home cats are both freaking weirdos who so easily get into Avery’s space. I amorously call them “Dwebbles” because they are just so ridiculous that it’s hard to describe how little I would assume Avery could get along with him.
He’s practically stoic. And they are fun-loving little weirdos who don’t acknowledge personal space and will bother each other to get each other to play, and they’ll squabble, but almost the same way siblings do. It’s definitely not serious and it definitely doesn’t escalate to actual aggression.
But Avery would get to the point of actual aggression, and yelling, and potential fights with Bjorn back when I brought him in. Luckily I diffused pretty much every fight, but a few times I came home to find fluff all over the floor, which scared me. These days, that never would happen.
At first, Avery literally could not stop hissing and losing his mind at how annoying these cats were to him. He could boil over if they were really too much and getting in his space as he saw it, and he would get jealous about them sitting in his spot and hit them to get out.
I would gently scold him and tell him to not do this, and eventually he was completely in control and self-control became zero issue for him.
Which is all I could ask for honestly. But things didn’t stop there. He actually likes these two cats now, one more than the other for sure (Athos far more than Bjorn), but still, that is something I never expected to happen.
They snuggle with each other! Like actually, all the time. They’ll typically all start out squished together snuggling by my side, but they’ll carry on their snuggle leap if I leave the room. And sometimes Athos will just go sneak beside Avery and nap for warmth.. and Avery looks, well happy!
Honestly, his personality has changed a lot, too. Not like he’s a different cat, but the neuroticism he used to have? Pretty well near gone now.
I think they’ve helped him not be so anxious because they helped him re-regulate what is and is not stressful in his mind. That’s the only explanation I can really come up with.
The other big personality change: they’ve somehow taught him how to play???
Avery has always been SUCH a lazy cat. Like cats are lazy, but it was so impossible for me to engage him in play that I’d be losing my mind in excitement when any toy remotely made him move, even for a fraction of a minute, ahaha!
Not these days. These days he quite literally plays with the other cats. Sometimes daily. Sometimes multiple times a day. Then not for a week. Then back to playing with them. But usually because Athos has bothered him to start playing. Or he sees them playing and will join in.
He’ll even watch them play with automatic cat toys sometimes, though these are definitely not his thing and he prefers to play chase with the other cats, and jump as high as he can on the furniture.
And he’ll engage with me with toys more often than he ever used to.. it’s strange to see such a massive difference in this domain.
But maybe that has to do with stress too, somehow? Like his constant state of being just a little on edge made him less likely to play, so now that that baseline neuroticism is pretty well near gone, he’s happier and able to engage in play?
Pretty sweet. And I’m excited to have seen this type of change for the better.
These days, there are zero friction points in his life with the cats. All of them squabble with each other every so often, but they’re like the types of squabbles between siblings.
And Avery used to always be the perpetrator. These days, Bjorn will take a swipe at Avery to get him to play when Avery’s obviously not in the mood, and he’ll get a scolding from me on behalf of Avery. There’s balance in who’s the scoundrel who made the faux-pas. And to be honest, Avery’s not often the one who starts things anymore.
It’s crazy to see such a change if I think back to the way things were, but all this is to say, they’ve changed so much that their first few weeks or months together are unrecognizable from what they are like now.
I think these days that bringing a new cat into our home again might be a little bit frustrating for Avery, but for a very short time.
He was much more quick to accept Athos into the family after having gotten used to Bjorn.
Though to be fair, it may also be because he liked Athos a lot, to this day, he still accepts Bjorn…
But it’s just not the same as his relationship with Athos…
I honestly believe accepting these two helped his separation anxiety, his boredom at home, and he needs far less attention these days than he used to, probably in part because his separation anxiety has subsided.
He’ll still adore absolutely any and all attention he’s given, and there are times when I am busy during the points of the day and he wants way too much attention, far more attention than I can give him in that moment, but these resolve themselves quite quickly and easily with some time on the bed snuggling, binge-watching TV shows.
While before, they would take all day and all night and still not resolve sometimes because he was using me for entertainment while there were cloudy days that he could not lie in the sun, for instance.
Things are better. He seems happier by leaps and bounds. He is far less stressed. He doesn’t consider the other two cats a threat to his getting his needs met. He doesn’t consider them anything but annoying sometimes in a sibling sort of way. And this obvious by the way he interacts with them.
It makes me so stinkin’ happy. I never saw this kind of a bond in his future. He always seemed to really be indifferent at best to other cats. Not anymore.
Your Thoughts on Cats Changing via Their Relationships With Other Cats?
Have you ever had a cat go through a personality change when you brought in a second cat? What were these changes and did they alter over time?
Have you ever brought a second cat into the home and were surprised like me to find your first cat actually had changed for the better because of a new cat that he or she once hated?
Would love to hear any thoughts or stories you have on the topics of chats changing because of their relationships with other cats! Please take a moment to leave any you have in comments section down below.