Tuesday, March 19, 2013

update on the cats

Cast of Characters:
  • Moetzel (Bunny's cat)
  • Phoenix (my mother's cat)
  • Jethro (lone dog)
After day one of being a two-cat household last week, I wanted to smack myself. I had successfully integrated Phoenix with two (two!) dogs in the past and here I was with fighting, angry, stressed out cats. One of whom may have peed one me in anger, but really, who can quite blame her? Luckily Bunny worked from home on some freelance the first two days the after Moetzel moved in, so we shut her down with us in the basement when we slept, kept them in different parts of the house when we weren't home, and someone was around to supervise/break up interactions as necessary.

Going into this I pretty much had a feeling that these cats would be fine. Phoenix is a little territorial, but she's acclimated to two different dogs at different times (as well as visiting dogs) and Moetzel has lived with another cat before. Which is maybe why hiss/growl/pounce routine they played the first night frustrated me so much. I hadn't been entirely realistic. I did know that Phoenix would be dealing with a second "intruder" into her space and that Moetzel has had a stressful year (living mostly alone as we were trying to decide whether we were moving after Bunny's dad died, and then moving in with Bunny's mom and having all new people all the time) and that the change wouldn't exactly be kind to her and she loved living next door so we were taking her from a home she was happy in.

Things have quickly calmed down, though. There's still a level of stress that I can read off of the animals of the house at various times but I have had constant entertainment. Phoenix has pretty much accepted that Moetzel's here and just wants to get to know her now, and there haven't been any signs of aggression or territoriality from her since day two. She's a little extra lovey, but I can snuggle a cat every now and again. Moetzel's a different beast, and is a little bit terrified of Phoenix and is more stressed out and grumpy; when Phoenix comes too close to her she'll hiss or growl and sometimes walk away.

Mister Jethro has been hilarious though. This poor dog does not like conflict of any sort and is super sensitive to what's happening around him. If Bunny gets pissed at his video games and gets loud and sweary the dog shakes and comes to me for cuddles and reassurance, so the hiss/growl/chase of the cats when it happens has been hard on him. When Moetzel growls Jethro shakes and needs cuddles. The first days when Phoenix was chasing and Moetzel was hissing? The dog would be going to break them up even before we could get there. I keep Jethro snuggled up with me while the cats are in the same room so that they can interact without him getting in the middle of it.

At this point it's all about a slow stare down. The cats will willingly sit within a foot of each other, though they won't get any closer. Phoenix wants to; she'll move to come in a little bit closer and then Moetzel's hair will stand on end and she'll get that stressed cat posture and hiss and Phoenix will just slowly back her way off, sit down further away, and then slowly try to approach again. It's like Phoenix wants to be friends. They're also both moving freely around the house which I find encouraging, and in the last two days I haven't heard a single hiss.

Wcan comfortably leave the doors open and let the cats wander freely when we're not around and we're not waking up to cat sounds so often. Moetzel has discovered some of Phoenix's favourite hiding spots, and Phoenix will leave her alone when she's there. There's chasing without hissing, which seems more playful, and they're even starting to both choose to sit calmly within a few feet of each other. So positive improvement, though there's still a ways to go.

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