Friday, August 26, 2016

A Tale of Two Kitties

Since I’d met Michael’s Mommy, we’d had one cat in our lives. Our dear departed angel kitty, Ariel. 

We had to put her to sleep in June.

We knew we’d miss her, that part was a foregone conclusion. But after her passing, our house just felt unbearably empty. Her presence filled our lives, and now we were suddenly without that filling. Devoid. Barren. A bitter chill despite the summer warmth. 

We knew there would be no replacement for her, but we knew we needed another little ball of fur to make our house a home again.  

The following Friday I came home at lunch and whisked Michael and his mom down to the pet shelter to investigate kitties needing homes.

There were lots of kitties: playful kitties, needy kitties, happy kitties, sad kitties… but the one that stole our hearts was a brand new addition: an eleven-week old black and white tuxedo kitten. She was a feisty ball of fluff, all paws and ears, curious and cuddly and full of love. 

We were smitten.

We brought her home and gradually introduced her to her new life as part of our family. Being a little black and white treat, we decided she should be named “Oreo”.

The weeks that followed were filled with us becoming used to our new little addition, who showed us her personality in no time: playful, curious, loving, happy and energetic.

To get from one place to another meant zooming. There was no walk, trot, prance or scamper, it had to be the full-on jet-propelled zoom. She zoomed into the bedroom in the morning. She zoomed downstairs to get breakfast. She zoomed to the top of her gigantic kitty condo where she’d perch and loom over all of us lesser beings, glaring like a vulture.  

She learned quickly not to get on tables or mess with the house plants. A few little spritzes from the squirt bottles I keep handy saw to that.

And she also started exhibiting behavior we can only chalk up to “embedded cat memory”. She would travel in Ariel’s footsteps, knowing where to stand when it was time to receive breakfast or dinner, knowing that the shower was an interesting place to investigate, knowing that the now-plugged-up kitty door leading to the garage is something to be curious about, and knowing that the front window is the best place to survey her domain. All the things her predecessor did.

In no time at all, though, this little bitty ball of fluff became a cat. She grew like a weed, and despite being 20 weeks old, she’s practically full-sized. Where she once occupied only a portion of her perch at the top of her carpet-covered condo, she now lops over the side.

The fact of her size increase was only made more apparent with the arrival of the next kitty, Taffy. 

Taffy came from the litter of a momma cat that showed up on Sister L’s doorstep several months back. Just last week she asked if we consider another kitten as companion to Oreo. We agreed, and brought home the extremely fluffy but nonetheless wispy grey tuxedo kitten at just 7 weeks old.

We kept her separated from Oreo for the first night, corralled in Sister L’s bedroom. The next day would be the first vet visit and a check for possible contagions such as feline leukemia. After the all clear, we cautiously allow the cats to become acquainted, separated by a baby gate and large sheet of Plexiglas. 

Later that day we let them visit.

Oreo was not sure she liked the new kitty, and there was a considerable amount of hissing and batting with each interaction. This was understandable, we found out days later, when we got the scoop from the vet that introducing a second cat to the home should be a very lengthy and involved process, since cats are territorial and need time to adjust to each other’s scents and presence.

It is recommended that you keep the new cat separate from current cat for several months, allowing only a very small opening by which sniffs can be exchanged, but not claws.

It is recommended that you swap their bedding from time to time, to get them used to each other’s scent.

It is recommended to move their food bowls closer and closer together over the course of this time, to get them used to communal feeding.

It is doubtful that any home in America has any hope of accommodating these recommendations, unless they are specifically architected with the intent of introducing cats to each other (actually this sounds like it could be a business opportunity: cat introduction services in a specially constructed, gradual meeting space).  

But we had neither known nor intuited any of these cat facts, and basically just tossed them together hoping things would work themselves out.

And they did.

In a matter of three days, the two kittens have become friends. They tussel, but without biting, hissing or yeowling. They sniff each other, play with each other, drink from the same dish on occasion, and both run when they see the squirt bottle brought to bear.

Oreo has asserted herself as top cat, and Taffy is the zen master of allowing the greater force to go as it will; she bends like a reed in the wind.

Of course, being kittens, they still haven’t figured out how to behave at nighttime. And for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to leave our bedroom door open last night so the kitties could come and go.

Which is why I probably got a good solid 45 minutes of sleep. Between their Big Time Kitty Wrestling all over the bed and the unusually warm nighttime temperatures here, I didn’t stand a chance.

I scooped them up and whisked them out of the bedroom at 4:00 AM and shut the door behind us. I figured at least my wife could get some decent sleep out of the deal.

I’m still not sure what we were thinking. I doubt I ever will really know. 

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