Introducing a new cat to your home

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Introducing a new cat to your home

I didn't mean to bring home another cat. Really, I didn't. I just went to the Cat Shoppe to get a bag of Weight Management Cat Food. But, how could I help myself when that tiny orange-gold body twined herself around my leg and then locked on with both claws? I looked down and she gave me the Puss in Boots eyes and before I knew it I was leaving the store with one 15 pound bag of cat food and one 6 pound cat named Crunkers.

Crunkers was happy. I was happy. My four greedy house cats, waiting expectantly by the door for their bag of cat food, were not happy. Not happy, in fact, was a poor description of what they were—livid, murderously filled with rage, and ready to destroy my drapery were all more accurate descriptions of their feline states of mind. Although I immediately scurried Crunkers in her cat carrier off to the library and set up her new base of operations, all four of my cats had seen her. Yes, yes, they had SEEN the cat in the carrier, and there were no buts about it—this was WAR.

I have five cats (and a very small dog), so I know from experience that those first couple of days are critical. The new cat has to feel safe and accepted. She has to feel free to explore. And, she has to be introduced to the resident cats on a very, very limited basis. Since Crunkers had already been to the vet and I knew that she was without any health-problems, I let her explore the first couple of days under my supervision.

My four angry cats were locked safely in my bedroom while Crunkers ran through the house playing with toys, sniffing strange food and furniture, and meeting my dog, Lady. Crunkers and Lady were fast friends and were sleeping side-by-side within a few hours. That was good. That was very good, since my four current cats spent their time trying to peer under my bedroom door to see Crunkers and to knock the door down using the strength of four.

I thought that my little Siamese, Nonny, was going to unhinge her front leg after spending hours reaching under the door at Crunkers whenever her tiny orange form passed by. Nonny liked to accompany these under-the-door grabs with hisses, snarls, and other lovely noises that I'm sure only Siamese cats are able to reproduce. Siamese cats can emit, when annoyed (which is often), a loud piercing shriek that I'm fairly certain can shatter glass under the right circumstances. Crunkers, who seemed excited by her new home, ignored the wailing blue-eyed menace and her other bedroom-prisoners. But, this couldn't go on for long—after all, we all lived in the same house and sooner or later I would have to let all the cats out.

I tried introducing Crunkers to one cat at a time. This seemed a good plan, since it would prevent all four cats from jumping on tiny Crunk at once. The only time that my four self-absorbed cats ever work together is when another cat is present. Cats are, as any cat-owner knows, very territorial. And, their territory is, in their minds, the entire world. When my neighbor's lazy cat, Ryder, a cat that menaces bunnies and weighs as much as a medium sized pumpkin, lays on my porch or parades in front of my picture window, all four of my cats are united in their loathing. They sniff (in Nonny's case), they snarl, they hiss, and they smack the window in a very threatening manner. This display of tiger-fierceness has no effect on Ryder, who easily outweighs any two normal cats and realizes that despite anything you've seen on Tom and Jerry cartoons, cats' claws cannot cut through glass. So, Ryder sits and stretches and yawns insolently while my cats fume. However, Crunkers would not have the luxury of plate-glass between her and the menacing claws of Lo, Nonny, Mooshie, and Tigellina. Crunk would have to make her own way.

Crunkers introduction to Lo, my one male cat, went very well. Lo seemed not to know that Crunkers was in the room until she ran up and touched his nose. He was so shocked that he did a graceful half-roll off his pillow and blinked. If he could talk, I would've expected him to say, "Well, I say!" Crunkers is indeed a bold little cat. Lo weighs easily more than twice her weight and is tall enough to turn doorknobs with his clever paws. But, confronted with the brashness of a tiny six-pound cat, Lo simply rolled over, sniffed, and gave up his pillow. One down, three to go.

Since Lo seemed fine with Crunkers, I decided to introduce Nonny the next day. Nonny has no notion of personal space. If a cat (or a dog or a person) is sitting on a pillow that Nonny wants, she simply sits on top of them. This usually causes the cat (or dog or person) to leave, yielding the pillow to Nonny. However, Nonny's plan doesn't always work. I've seen her and Tig try to fit on the tiniest of pillows in a sort of bitter co-existence for hours before one of them finally slides off the side.

When Nonny and Crunk met, it was Nonny that ran up to tiny Crunkers and touched noses. Crunk immediately backed away from the scrutiny of Nonny's enormous blue-eyes. While Nonny, who thinks everything is a game, chased Crunkers around the house. Crunkers did not think this was a game. Crunkers was not pleased. She climbed into the basket house I had set up for her and refused to come out. Of course, to Nonny that was no problem. She just climbed in after her and sat down on top of her. Although Crunkers didn't like this, she put up with it, eventually leaving the house to Nonny—which is just what she had planned in her little Siamese heart all along.

Next came Tig. Tig is big. She is a Maine Coon with an impressive tail. Tig knows her tail is impressive—she cleans it constantly and likes to wave it in other cats' faces. Tig is the Princess. As long as everyone acknowledges that Tig is the prettiest, the smartest, and has the fluffiest tail in the world, then everyone will get along just fine. Since Crunkers didn't seem to realize that Tig was the Boss, Tig decided that Crunkers would need some schooling.

Lesson one was, of course, that you never, never eat from Tig's food bowl or lay on Tig's pillow. Although Nonny doesn't follow this rule, everyone else seems to do so—including Lady the dog. Crunkers learned quickly that you DO NOT eat from Tig's food bowl—or play with Tig's favorite toys. Once you've accepted these rules, along with the fact that Tig is the Ultimate Ruler of the Universe, all will be fine. After a day or so, Crunkers, while not entirely accepting of the rules, seemed to have reached some sort of a stalemate with Tig. There would not be peace, but there wouldn't be war either. Tig would ignore Crunkers when she came into a room, and Crunkers would not try to take anything away from Tig or use anything that belonged to Tig.

So, within a week's time, I had managed to cobble out some sort of co-existence between four of the cats and one little dog. But, that still left Mooshie. Mooshie is a hater. Mooshie holds a grudge. And, although she is tiny—she is fierce. Mooshie and Crunkers had a special hate at first sight relationship. Crunkers attempts to cajole Mooshie with her big, brown eyes, did not work. Mooshie was not amused. Any attempt to bring Crunkers and Mooshie into the same room ended with poor Crunkers fleeing for her life.

Now, Mooshie, a tiny, black Bombay, is about the same size as Crunkers. Of all the cats, I would've thought that Crunkers would be most comfortable with Moosh since they are on-par size-wise. I had not counted on the fury of one small black cat. If Moosh was out and Crunkers was in the library (behind shut doors), then Moosh would sit with her nose pressed to the door listening for sounds of her dreaded enemy. If Moosh was in my bedroom and Crunkers was out, then Mooshie would sit against my bedroom door hoping for a glimpse of Crunkers' feet as she passed near the door frame.

Moosh was not to be appeased. My attempts to let the other cats smell Crunkers (via a towel) before they met her, to let Crunkers explore their territory and leave a bit of her scent, to introduce one cat at a time to let them all adjust—none of these plans worked on Moosh. After three weeks. Crunkers still had to be locked in the library away from the other cats at night because if she wasn't Moosh would attempt an assassination.

Moosh and Crunkers could not be left alone. Moosh would attack, Crunkers would run, and that was the end of the story. The other cats watched all these events with their usual nonchalant. It didn't effect them. It was none of their business. They would neither attack or help Crunkers. They would watch her run. I was at my wit's end. Any attempt to get Moosh and Crunkers to socialize ended in disaster. They had to be watched constantly. This was something I hadn't expected from Moosh. She isn't the dominant cat—that's either Tig or Nonny—depending on which one you ask. She isn't the largest cat—that's Lo, hands down. But, she is the most independent cat. And, for whatever reason, Crunkers is Enemy Number One on her list.

There seemed to be nothing I could do. As long as Crunkers ran, Mooshie would chase. And, Crunkers always ran. Until one day, Crunkers had had enough. As usual, I let Crunkers out of the library and she sauntered down the hall into the main room. And, as usual, Mooshie was lying in wait for her on top of a table, waiting to pounce down in all her black fury. But, this time, when Mooshie pounced, Crunkers did not run. Instead she spun on Mooshie and whacked her across the face. Mooshie hit her back. And, then, just like in a B-Grade Western, they backed away from each other. They sat facing each other, eyes blazing—you could practically hear the whistling music and see the tumbleweeds blowing. Each was waiting for the other to make a move. And, then, Moosh turned, walked down the hall and climbed in her basket. Crunkers licked one paw and walked into the main room. The other cats looked at her from their perches. There was a new sheriff in town—at least for the day.

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