This is Toby, AKA Mr. Toberson.
I took this picture earlier today while we were having our morning snuggles over yogurt and coffee, and he was so intent on pushing his head into my hand that it was almost impossible to get a clear shot. You see, right now he’s only getting about an hour or so of our attention at a time, because he’s living in the basement.
As I’ve said before, Joel and I spent a lot of time pre-move thinking about how to meld our two animal families. (To the detriment of melding my animal family and his kid, which we thought would be the easy part.) We figured that introducing our cats would be rough. Kitty — she had another name once, but she clearly thought it was stupid, and never came when we called until we switched to the obvious — is old and mouthy. At 14 or so, she’s the oldest member of our animal kingdom, and though she used to live with another cat, it’s been ages. She is small, about 8 pounds, and expresses her displeasure in sounds not unlike the aliens in Mars Attacks. Toby, at 4, is the youngest member of our clan. He’s also lived with other cats, but he had a bad experience a year or so ago in a kennel, and he hated the presence of other felines. He’s a big guy, around 16 pounds, and in general is pretty chill.
The dogs grew up with Kitty. They chase her sometimes when she gets too close to food, and Huck in particular likes to snap at her when she horns in on his people time. For the most part, though, they just ignore each other. Or, shall I say, they ignore her, and she yowls at them when she thinks they are getting too close. Our assumption was that the dogs would adjust quickly to Toby.
Ahahahahahaha. Man, we’re so dumb sometimes.
Upon arrival in Minneapolis, exhausted and sick and just happy to be free of the car, we let the dogs loose in the house. Toby was also loose in the house. He hissed and sprinted and they took up chase. Toby ran into the basement and hid in a secret spot under the upstairs floorboards. And there he has stayed.
On a few occasions, Joel has brought Toby upstairs in the evenings, when Kitty and the dogs are upstairs with me. He and Kitty have seen each other through the gate we put on the stairs. Both Kitty and the dogs have sat outside the basement door listening to Toby cry on the other side. Kitty has hissed at her unseen foe, and the dogs just cock their heads in confusion. If their Kitty is sitting right there, how is she meowing in the basement?
For the most part, Toby has settled in quite nicely. He has a blanket on a high shelf in a storage closet, which allows him access to his secret spot. Since my stuff arrived, he has a comfy couch, and there is a padded bench running the length of one wall where his cat bed is. He has numerous cardboard scratchers. And for a bit each morning and night, someone goes down and hangs out with him so he can get his head scratches. Head scratches are his FAVORITE.
This weekend we’re going to kick it up a notch. We’re going to double stack baby gates at the top of the basement stairs, so that Toby is no longer hidden behind a door. He can come and go as he pleases, and Kitty/the dogs can get used to his sweet face — if he chooses to show it. When we’re confident everyone can handle it, we’ll probably let Kitty and Toby be in the same room together. Once they figure their stuff out, we’ll introduce the dogs on leashes. It’s going to take forever, but my nerves can’t handle another raucous pet outbreak.
Anyone else have experience integrating pet families? Got words of wisdom?