Monday, May 13, 2024

Bringing another cat into the house is way more complicated than I remembered it


That's Cheddar soaking up some sun near our front door.

For many years we owned five cats. This was just how it was, and I spent the first few minutes of every morning feeding them, getting them fresh water, scooping out their litter boxes, and ensuring they were all present and accounted for.

Then our three boys (Fred, George and Charlie) each succumbed to various feline diseases in one 16-month period, and suddenly we found ourselves down to two kitties in the house: our girls Ginny and Molly.

As much as I miss Fred, George and Charlie, I have to admit I've enjoyed the relative ease of taking care of only two cats vs. five. All along I've said that as soon as these two ladies pass on  something I hope doesn't happen for quite a while  we would start living cat-free.

No more food bowls, no more litter boxes, no more clumps of fur blowing randomly around the house.

You know where this is going.

A few months ago, my daughter Melanie found a sweet, affectionate orange cat living outside her house. She started to feed and pet him, and the next thing you knew, Mr. Orange was living inside her home along with the two cats she already owned.

This would have been fine except that the two existing felines weren't especially nice to Orange. They made his life miserable, which is all the more sad considering what a nice little guy he is. He loves receiving pets, being around people, and just generally loving everyone.

Mel didn't know what to do. She wanted to find him a new home where he could live in relative peace and quiet, but there were no obvious candidates outside of her family.

Again, you know where this is going.

I had already resigned myself to the fact that Cheddar, as she had named him, would be coming to live with us, even before the formal request was made. Our oldest daughter Elissa offered to take him, but it was agreed that we could offer Cheddar the best home.

So one Saturday Mel brought him over. He lived in our master bathroom for a few days while he got acclimated to his new surroundings.

Actually, him living in the bathroom was done mainly to allow Ginny and Molly ample time to get used to his smell and accept the fact that he would be their new brother.

I read online how integrating a new cat into an existing cat family should be a gradual process. One thing we did, for example, was to feed the girl cats treats on one side of a bedroom door while Cheddar was getting his own treats on the other.

This not only put them in close proximity, the treats also (theoretically) created a positive association for them with their mutual smells.

Slowly we started giving Cheddar more freedom. When the girls first encountered him visually, their reactions were predictable: Light but insistent hissing and facial expressions that clearly conveyed the message, "We don't know what you are, but you are not welcome."

As I write this in mid-April, this is still the state of affairs, though I think Ginny and Molly are coming to the realization that Ched isn't going anywhere and they need to get used to the idea.

Who knows? Maybe in time they'll become pals.

All I know is that I envisioned this process happening much quicker and going much more smoothly. We've done the cat integration thing before, but apparently I've forgotten how reluctant they can be to welcome new companions of their own species.

We had a much easier time when we were bringing home new (human) babies every two years back in the 90s and early 2000s. At least back then the kids didn't hiss at their new brothers and sisters.

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