No More Nine Lives Here

About six months ago, my son D. and I decided we wanted to get a second cat.

Actually, the original idea was that we wanted a dog, a nice yellow Labrador that we could walk down our country back roads, that would rush to the door to greet us when we get home, and that would curl up by our feet when we watched Modern Family.

My boyfriend D. squelched that idea, however, because he works from home and insisted that he would end up being up the one who would have to take care of a dog. (You might ask, “So what’s wrong with that?” and I don’t have a good answer to that either).

But little D. and I saw our opening—we told big D. that we would stop harassing him about getting a dog if we got a second cat. So in some weak moment, big D., the animal lover, agreed.

It took us a good six months to find the right one—we wanted to adopt a cat that was already declawed because we have a significant number of screen windows and wooden doorjambs, and because declawing cats is mean.

We picked out a name for this cat before we searched Petfinder. We were going to call him Fish—our other cat was named Tuna, and so a cat named Fish would be perfect. (It was either Fish or Helper, and Fish sounded better.)

But the name-story doesn’t end there. Little D. always wanted to have a pet named Kevin (I can’t explain that one). And I had told him if he had no missing assignments between December and January that he could name the cat Kevin. (I never thought he would do it, but lo and behold!)

So the cat’s name would be Kevin Fish.

Finally, we found the perfect cat. First, fortunately for him, he was a boy.

He was almost six years old, 11 pounds, and part Siamese. He was huge compared to Tuna—he was 11 pounds. Kevin was also a complete love—he came right to the door of his cage at the Animal Rescue Shelter and clearly wanted us to take him home.

Kevin was brought to the shelter because a second cat in his household was reportedly being aggressive toward him—and because Kevin had no claws and the other cat did, it was not a pretty situation. At the shelter, they told us they kept him separated because other cats stressed him out. They did say he should not be with any dogs or small children, and they weren’t sure how he’d do with another cat.

We were sure he’d be fine. So we brought him home, glad to rescue him from that kind of terrible place where he lived his days all stressed out. We gathered some detailed advice from the shelter about how to introduce Kevin to Tuna, namely, keep him in a safe room until they get used to each other’s smells and then as soon as he seemed ready and wanting to go out into the house, gradually expose them to each other, supervised.

Sounds easy, right?

We kept them separate for a week, but then gradually showed them to each other, holding each of them tightly, listening to them growl and watching their fur stand on end. We took it very slowly, because I read online that it can sometimes take up to 4-6 weeks for adult cats to get to know each other, so we had to be patient.

Something the vet said shortly after we got Kevin should have made me suspicious. I told her how Kevin was so loving toward us, and yet also growling and a bit aggressive when we showed Tuna to him. She said, “Well, hopefully he’s not just a people-cat but is also a cat-cat.”

A people-cat versus a cat-cat? Never heard of such a thing.

She also told me that one time when she introduced a second cat to her home, the first cat lost all of her fur due to anxiety. At first, she thought the cat had cancer or something, but then it turned out it just had PTSD and needed anti-anxiety medication.

The first time we let the two cats loose, Kevin immediately made a violent sprint after Tuna, and then chased her in circles around our downstairs, both of them hissing and growling, and until finally we captured him. This happened a few more times. So, we kept them in separate spaces, rotating them into the full house throughout the day. We tried everything to get them used to each other—we changed their litter boxes so they’d adjust to each other; we put their food and water by the door so they would associate each other’s smell with a pleasant experience. We patted and comforted them as we showed them each other for a minute or two at a time. But Tuna continued to hide under the bed in our bedroom and Kevin just sat outside the bedroom door, staring, just waiting for the opportunity to attack.

One day, we left the house for about four hours, and by accident, we locked Tuna out of her safe room. We thought she was locked in our bedroom, but she had snuck out at some point so she was actually locked out. I don’t know how long it took for Kevin to find her.  Probably 30 seconds. But when we got home later that day, Tuna was perched on a bathroom windowsill, looking terrified, and there was cat poop on the floor and tufts of hair throughout the house. She had some kind of tiny cuts on her back.

Remember the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp? “We are Siamese if you please/ We are Siamese if you don’t please / Now we’re looking over our new domicile / If we like we stay for maybe quite a while…” The owner, Aunt Sarah, thinks they are the sweetest, most docile cats, but the minute she leaves the house, they terrorize Lady and the Tramp.

Well, that’s Kevin Fish.

After about a month of this, we decided they couldn’t live together anymore. Tuna was living on the edge of a nervous breakdown and Kevin was in a constant aggressive, hunting state. We decided we had to split them up. Fortunately, my ex was willing to take Tuna at his house—so D. could still keep both of his cats, one at each house. They just had a small dog, Kyle, at their house—and when Tuna hissed at Kyle, he ran the other way. So I think Tuna’s pretty safe there.

Kevin is clearly very pleased with himself. He spends the days sitting in our laps or lying in the sun, and nights curled up on our bed, next to our legs. A friend of mine said, “Well, of course Kevin loves you! He’s thinking, Geez, I didn’t like that other cat, and they got rid of her! Cool!”

I feel guilty about introducing such a terrorist into our home.

In the meantime, my boyfriend D. has renamed Kevin. He no longer goes by Kevin Fish.

D. now calls him Katniss Everdeen.

*The picture above shows Kevin Katniss Everdeen Fish, basking in the warmth of our pellet stove. Doesn’t he look sweet?