Friday, June 04, 2010

Introducing cats - tearing down the gate

We had something unexpected last night. I fell asleep on the couch, and woke up to strange meowing. I thought it was Anubis at first, crying from behind the gate... but then I realized it was coming from the kitchen. It was an uneasy sound, I went to turn on a light. There was Simba, staring toward the gate. And there was Anubis, out in front of it. He'd jumped over.

We don't know if he's been jumping over for the last few nights or not. Either way I reassured Simba, who retreated to the bedroom, and Anubis jumped back over the gate.

I made my way back to the bedroom to finish the night out actually in a bed. Not sure how long I was asleep before I woke again, this time to soft growling. It was low and quiet enough I wasn't sure what it was at first. But then I started looking for Simba. She was curled up on the cedar chest at the foot of the bed, growling away. I grabbed a flashlight to try and see what she was on about.

There was Anubis, curled up quite casually in the doorway of the bedroom. None of Simba's fur was raised, Anubis showed no signs of aggression, but Simba's ears were halfway back, nervous style. I tried to reassure her. James tried to reassure Anubis who decided maybe he wasn't allowed in the bedroom after all and took off to head back behind the gate. Simba calmed down and started purring after he was gone.

We went back to sleep. The gate came down in the morning, unceremoniously. We made sure that no big deal was made about it, we acted as though nothing odd had happened. The gate simply came down, that was it.

Simba eyed the lack of gate rather heavily when she came out in the morning, but didn't run. Other than that, not much happened. Anubis came out to explore a few more times. Sometime later in the day James brought Anubis back to the bedroom to show him he's not forbidden from that space. Unfortunately Simba had crawled under the bed from the thunder. I lifted the dust ruffle to check on her, and Anubis peeked under with me. She hissed, so he took off again.

I did manage to coax her out but for at least half an hour she didn't seem interested in coming out of the bedroom. I was a little afraid the experience had scared her into hiding, but sure enough she came back out into the living room.

She fell asleep on her favorite pillow on the couch, and Anubis came out into the living room to play a little bit.

She seems somewhat reassured when I try to show her Anubis is allowed here, but she is still very wary of him, at least when she catches sight of him. She's been in the same room with him several times now, flopped on her favorite pillow. But as long as she doesn't look at him, she doesn't act out of the ordinary. I know she can hear and smell him, and that he's close. It's only when she sees him that she acts bothered. Amd she has, after all, started to peer down the hallway now - tail up high and curious instead of down and tense.

Here is where having two behaviorists in the house is a plus, since we can both bounce things off of each other. Even with all the things I catch, with all the things I know about my cat, I had missed something that should have been obvious. Happens to all of us, I'm just glad he thought to mention it because it puts things into perspective.

We were discussing the cats' personalities, going over again why we didn't feel there would be many fights. I mentioned that Simba, even outside with the other barn cats at my parents' house, had never been on top. Her mother ruled the roost until she died, then her sister took charge. Once said sister died, sometime toward the end of my time at OU, the hierarchy in the group changed again. By the time I finished college and came back home, Simba had been bumped down to the bottom rank. It had been as good a time as any for my parents to bring her to me in my new place.

I told all this to James - I had apparently not explained to him before that when she came to me she was at the bottom of the totem pole. He pointed out what I had missed.

The last time Simba was with other cats, she was the one getting pushed around. Now that suddenly she is faced with another cat again, she is probably a bit nervous she will get pushed around again. So it is very possible that she is posturing to try and make sure she's not stuck on the bottom again.

One way or another, I think once she realizes that Anubis isn't going to try and eat her, she'll be fine. For one, I think she thinks he's got his fur raised at her - she isn't used to cats quite so fluffy (and he has loooong fur). So once she realizes that she may calm down.

For now, I think it's simply best we don't push the issue. I have advised James that while it's okay to carry Anubis into the living room to show him it's his house too, we may wish to leave the bedroom alone since that's been Simba's "safe zone" with every other animal I've brought into this house (guests and foster doggies included). I want her to feel like we're not going to be carrying "invaders" in all the time. So at this point we just let them do what they do and let them work around each other and get used to things. It does seem clear now though that they're at least not going to hurt each other, just avoid each other, so we should be okay to leave the gate down now. We're keeping both of them handy just in case, but we don't expect issues. Tonight, really, will be the test, since Anubis is bolder now and we're just trying to let them be.

I am, of course, nervous even though I know I have no reason to be. Simba is my baby and I tend to be a little paranoid when it comes to her. We're heading out of the house for a few hours tomorrow which makes me uneasy even though I know they'll be okay.

Monday will be the real test, as James and I will both be out the entire day. Hopefully Simba will adjust soon. Go figure, we both thought Anubis would be the problem and he's been perfectly calm. I know she WILL adjust, it's just a matter of when. Hopefully another week at most. She seems to have my two week adjustment period.

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