When my husband mellowed on the subject of a new cat, I contacted the group that had rescued our dog Fey from the streets of Los Angeles.
“We have a big dog who tries to play with everyone and everything,” I explained. “We mostly trained him out of chasing our old cats, but Woofie’s not totally reliable. Do you have a cat that’s okay with dogs?”
The volunteer said, “Oh, do we have a cat for you!”
After their outgoing kitten phase, most cats become hiders. The minute someone new arrives (or they figure out there’s an upcoming vet trip), the cat is under the bed, behind the washer, or in the box spring.
Parties can happen without any guests knowing you have a cat (unless they have allergies). It may take days for your in-laws to actually see your cats (if your cats are smart).
And when you move? The cat is under the bed for days, except for stealth forays to the litterbox and food dish.
New Cat was two years old. When she arrived, I put her in the bathroom, along with a litterbox and food. A small space is supposed to help a cat feel more secure. New Cat could get used to the smells in our house gradually, before meeting Fey, Woofie, and preschooler Baby D. I expected her to hide behind the toilet for hours, if not days.
I worried New Cat might stop eating, which is common when felines are stressed. My previous cats had done that more than once when we moved.
After a half-hour, I cracked the door to check on New Cat. She sat on the bath mat in the middle of the room. Her food dish was empty. (New Cat was not a svelte cat, but that’s another post.) New Cat went straight for the door, tail high in the air. “Mroooow?”
Since both dogs were outside, I opened the door. New Cat did not deign to hide. No, New Cat acted like she owned the place. She rubbed her face on walls. She jumped on counters. She chased Baby D and a string until she got tired (about 2 minutes).
Baby D built New Cat a fort and “cat furnace” on his bed. New Cat allowed him to carry her to her to his room. When he went out to play, New Cat settled by the back window, staring out at the dogs with a twitching tail.
When Andy got home, he helped me set up Wolfie’s old crate—with a lot of grumbling. “I don’t understand why we have to do this.”
“Because Woofie might chase her. Woofie is ninety pounds,” I reminded him. “New Cat is only fourteen pounds—”
“Fifteen! At least!”
“—and he’ll only be in the crate until they get used to each other.”
After I put New Cat in the bathroom again, we brought the dogs inside. Woofie went into his crate before we let New Cat out. Fey, who had no interest in cats, ignored New Cat as New Cat walked over and sniffed at Fey.
Woofie’s ears perked the second he saw the cat. He whined, then gave an outraged bark as New Cat sauntered around the living room.
Most cats flee when big dogs bark.
New Cat walked over to the crate, stuck her paw in between the bars, and smacked Woofie in the head.
Woofie retreated to the corner of the crate. New Cat walked around the crate to his corner. She reached through the bars again, batting at him.
Andy gave an outraged bark of his own: “Can we let him out NOW?!”
I let Woofie out. We told him to “leave it” if he looked like he wanted to chase New Cat. When he settled back down, we gave Woofie treats.
New Cat helped herself to the center of our bed that night. We left the door open in case she needed the litterbox. Some time around 4 AM, New Cat either used the litterbox or had some of the kibble in the laundry room before returning to our bedroom. (Probably kibble.)
Woofie followed New Cat back into the bedroom. Woofie must’ve followed too closely.
Andy and I woke to the most explosive cat hiss in the history of cat hisses.
Woofie fled the bedroom, crashing into the hall bookcase in his hurry.
New Cat hopped back on our bed, curled up on my feet, and went to sleep.
The next day, Baby D and I got New Cat a new tag for her collar. It said: