Monday, August 27, 2007

Welcoming a New Pet to the Zoo

I am in love. No, that is too weak a word for it. I am besotted. I have a new man in my life-- or at least a new male, and like most great loves, I happened upon him when I wasn't looking.

You see, it all started with a cat. We were quite happy with our five cats, Chibi, Sir Robin, Toko, Gollum and Quinn, but evidently someone else decided we weren't happy enough. One morning while getting ready for my day job, I heard a ruckus from the kitchen. I walked out and found all five of our cats perched by the patio window, hackles raised, growling and hissing. Now I'm pretty good at understanding cat language so I figured there must be something out on the patio that had their hackles raised. (See, I told you I was good!) I looked out and saw another cat, a white and brown mix who was sitting pretty as you please by the pool. He looked in at our cats and then approached the patio.

Our cats went crazy.



The strange cat was not impressed. He ambled up onto the patio and proceeded to sit right in front of our cats.

They screeched.

He rolled over and started licking his private parts.

Our cats piled all over each other trying to get to him.

Bill and I watched the show until it was time to go to work. When we came home, the cat was gone, but he came back a few days later. And then again. And again. He started hanging around the back door and howling. We went out and petted him a few times. He was very sweet... and he wanted to come inside.

We started putting food out for him and named him George Caruso-- Caruso because he howled so loudly and George because that is what one of our first cats was supposed to be named except he told me his name was Charlie. Then one night it rained really hard and being the soft touch (sap) that I am, I brought George Caruso into my home office with me. I told him that once I took him to the vet and had him checked over, I'd let him out with the other cats. In the meantime, George relished in his new role. He was very affectionate and loved to sit on my lap and purr.

The first Saturday I could, I took him to the vet. They were VERY happy to see me. I figured the vet must be in the market for a new pick up truck. Actually I do him an injustice-- we have the best vet in the world, and his prices are VERY reasonable. It's just when one has as many animals as we do, there's no such thing as a cheap vet visit.

I told the doctor that I had a new cat I wanted him to look at. The vet had other ideas however. "Why Dindy, I see you don't have any dogs since you had Goldie put to sleep in January."

Well, he had me there. "That's right."

"Would you like a dog?"

"No." I said firmly. Bill and I don't have the time or the energy for a dog.

"Well, we found this pup a few weeks ago and he'd be just perfect for you."

I made a major mistake. I looked and found myself staring at the face of the cutest pup I've ever seen. He was a shar-pei, about 14 weeks old and was absolutely adorable. Before I could say "no!" he was sitting next to me and George Caruso in the car going to his new home.

It's been 4 weeks, and I've not regretted it. Wrinkles is the funniest, sweetest, most loving, most adorable dog I have ever known. All he wants is to be with Bill and me every single second of the day. If he can lick us and play tug of war and jump up on us, that's even better, but if not, he'll settle for being at our side.

Now this blog is supposed to be about introducing a younger animal into a household with older animals, which is actually something we have a great deal of experience with as I am the Mother Theresa of stray animals. At least once a year we bring a new pet into the home. Sometimes that pet integrates successfully, sometimes not.

Right now we have six cats. Nobody blinks too much when we bring another cat into the household because once you've got three cats, you don't really notice any more. (My husband, who scoops the litterbox, begs to differ with me.) We've only once had a problem with bringing a new cat into the house and that was when Ollie came to live with us. He was a young cat and we only had one other cat at the time, a very old cat named Charlie (yes, the one who was supposed to be named George). Ollie was very aggressive, and that caused problems because he would not leave Charlie alone. He constantly attacked poor Charlie, and it wasn't in play. We eventually had to send Ollie to live with our older daughter because Charlie was getting too stressed out.

Generally if you are bringing a new cat into the house with older cats, I would advise bringing in a kitten. All of the times we have done this, we have found that the older cats are very protective of the kitten. The kitten grows up looking at the older cat as a parent, and the older cat doesn't get all territorial with a kitten.

But what if you are bringing a new puppy into the house with an older dog? Quite frankly, it may or may not work. When our lab/chow mix, Atherton, adopted us, he was about 12 weeks old. Our first dog, JoJo, a border collie mix, was several years old, and he HATED the new puppy. JoJo hated all other dogs except for our cocker spaniel, Goldie, who adopted us a couple of years after Athie did. Everyone liked Goldie. It was impossible not to as she was the cutest, most adorable dog in the world.

But JoJo despised all other dogs, and especially that young whippersnapper, Atherton. Athie didn't understand- he adored JoJo. So Athie would follow Jojo everywhere, and Jojo would try to kill Athie.

We never were able to get JoJo to accept Athie, but we couldn't bear to give Athie up either. So we developed a rather awkward system wherein they each had their own room, and we would take turns letting them out in the house. It wasn't ideal, but we lived that way for the ten years that Athie was with us. It was very sad when he died, but I will admit that it was also a bit of a relief not to have to check to make sure Athie's door was closed every time we let JoJo out.

Every animal is different and each time we've brought a new animal in the house, everyone has had to make some adjustments. However, if one animal is fun, a houseful of animals is a never ending source of entertainment. So if you are thinking about getting another cat, get a kitten. If you are thinking of getting another dog and your current dog LIKES other dogs, go for it. It'll be more fun to watch than anything on TV!


Rhobin said...

I enjoyed your post, empathizing with all of what you said. I have seven 'free' stray cats that have cost me hundreds of dollars each. My kids, who no longer live with me, think I've gone to the far shore never to return. Maybe. However, how can I leave an animal to starve because it has been thrown away? Our county has a pound where the animals are put down in a few days, so I won't take a stray there, and all the no-kill shelters figure I'm already taking care of the animal, so I will continue to do so. They never have any room. So I have seven cats and each has told me their name, even if it took several weeks for me to translate their correct name.
Dog and cat over population is a huge problem in most countries. People really have to take responsibility for spay/neutering their pets.

Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

I loved your post.

I remember when we first bought our puppy Daisy. We had her only four days before she ended up in the hospital for a week's stay in an oxygen tank. She had pneumonia and she wasn't given high percentages to live.

Many of our friends told us to stop forking out money and buy a new pet. Yeah, for some it's easy to think of them as disposable. Ignoramuses.

We didn't. We stuck out the bill of three thousand and she's two and a half years old now and the love of our family.

Lea Schizas


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