Planning is so important when adding a new pet to your household, but sometimes life just drops an animal into your lap.
I had months to plan for Matilda, while Cow simply happened to us. At first, Matilda didn’t like Cow, and I worried they would never get along. But somehow, it all worked out, and they even snuggle sometimes.
A few months ago, it happened again. A small black cat of around 9-10 months of age started to hang out on our patio, curled up on my outside bench on chilly fall nights.
To be fair, we did start feeding her. And we did indulge in her purrs and leg rubs. It was so needed just a few months after my boyfriend’s senior black cat, Salem, had passed away. But that cat lived with his family, not with us and my two dogs.
After two months, it was getting colder at night, and we were falling in love. She was one of the twenty-or-so roaming cats surrounding our apartment complex, some feral, some neighbor-owned “outdoor” cats, and some semi-friendly strays.
I don’t know what convinced me to take the next step. Maybe it was seeing my boyfriend so happy after suffering with the loss of his black senior kitty, or maybe it was the fact that it was getting colder, or… it could have been because I’d occasionally see dead cats in the road or in the complex parking lots, and I knew she would be at greater risk of getting hit by a car or even harmed by animal abusers because of her fur color.
So I lured her into a carrier, took her to the nearest vet despite her protesting meows, and had her checked for a microchip. She was chipless, so we went ahead and got her chipped and spayed. She had fleas and intestinal worms. I had to oral-syringe feed her dewormer twice daily for ten days, which was an adventure on its own. But thankfully she was free of feline HIV and other serious diseases.
And We Call Her Sabrina
Matilda and Cow are not cat-friendly dogs. But they’re smart, trainable dogs and they can be reasoned with.
So I got a three-story cat cage, a cat tree, a baby gate, and various dog calming products.
I sent Cow away to live with my parents for a month so I could focus on training one dog at a time.
And I expected to keep the animals isolated from one another until we could finally move into a larger place… which isn’t going to happen for at least another year.
The first few months were difficult, to say the least.
Whenever I gave the cat a few hours to roam the apartment, I had to crate the dogs. Or, I’d put her in the bedroom with her extra litterbox.
The dogs barked up a storm all day every time the furry little intruder moved, jumped, or played. They could not stand her, and when given the chance, they’d try to chase her.
But with baby steps, lots of treats, lots of training, all of the headaches, stress, and meltdowns (from every single family member!) we’ve made incredible progress.
These days, I have all three animals roaming the apartment, cage-free, to do as they please.
They still have little squabbles or moments where they chase one another (yes, the cat chases the dogs, too!) but with supervision, I’ve noticed that these events do not escalate to anything dangerous, and the dogs are easy to redirect to something more fun, like a toy or game. Most of the time, though, they just hang out, take naps, play (but not together… yet!) and even share a water bowl without any drama.
We still have lots of training left to do. I still hope that one day they can all love – not just tolerate – one another.
But for now, I’m incredibly amazed by everyone’s progress, including the cat’s. They’re learning one another’s language, and I’m learning so much about all of them.
I can’t wait to share with you what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and what strange and silly moments we’ve had over these past crazy few months.
In the meantime, please welcome our wonderful little cat Sabrina!