The time has come to get Toby out of the basement.
It has been a little over five weeks since we moved here, and except for the first hour when we were complete idiots and almost ruined everything, Joel and I have gone about our pet introductions completely by the book. For the first couple of weeks, we kept Toby behind a closed door. Huck, Cooper and Kitty could hear and smell him, but not see him. After that, we put up a baby gate – which Toby promptly leapt over. So we put up two gates, stacked on top of each other. This way, everyone could establish visual contact. As it so happens, the dogs were pretty cool. They mostly just ignored Toby when he stood at the gate unless he was meowing, in which case they stared at him all confused.
Kitty was the problem. She hissed and spat and made terrible noises in the back of her throat. After a couple of days, she got her panties in a bunch every time she passed the gate, even if Toby wasn’t standing there.
This continued for about a week before Toby figured out how to scale the gates, which are about five feet high. Joel caught him schlumped across the top one day, but otherwise Toby just started appearing in the house when he was supposed to be downstairs. He even had a cordial interaction with Huck this way, so we figured it was time to graduate to something new.
As of several days ago, we’ve switched to a gate with a cat hole cut in it. (This gate used to be in my living room, and was used to allow Kitty free reign while the dogs were confined to the kitchen.) Toby is free to come and go as he pleases, and aside from a couple of tense moments, it’s been okay. He’s pretty good at regulating his time upstairs, and he hightails it back whenever one of the dogs gets too frisky.
Of course, the cat hole works both ways, and Kitty has started showing interest in going to the basement. On Thursday she went down the stairs as Toby was coming up, and we almost had a fight on our hands. Joel almost killed himself trying to get over the gate to grab the cat before someone attacked.
Yesterday was the real test. I spent pretty much the entire day inside avoiding the coldest Minnesota December in several years (according to sources). I kept the gate open all day and did my best to sit tight and not interfere with whatever would happen. And for the most part, it was okay.
Huck is more fascinated with Toby than Cooper, which is mind boggling, since Cooper is the one with the squirrel/critter issue. Huck spends a lot of time staring down in the basement, and when Toby is up, Huck likes to follow him around. I’d give him about a B- at keeping his cool. He doesn’t bark or whine or go after the cat, but his following is a bit aggressive. Still, I’m trying not to get in the middle, hoping they’ll just figure it out.
We would have had a banner day if Toby hadn’t come into the TV room to watch Vampire Diaries with me. (Between you and me, I think he prefers The Originals.) Mister Toberson was minding his own business, sitting on the ottoman, when in comes Kitty with her bitchface on. She started hissing, then Toby starting hissing, then Huck ran downstairs to investigate the hissing. I tossed the dog out, pushed Kitty aside with my foot, and got Toby back to his cat hole.
He stayed downstairs the rest of the evening, mostly staring up the stairs a little mournfully. Poor thing must feel as trapped as ever, but I see a light at the end of the tunnel.