A while ago I wrote a post about When is the Right time to adopt Another Pet. Essentially I came to the conclusion that you have to let it happen organically. Based on my experience adoption of a new pet is not a venture to be rushed into. What do I mean? Well let me tell you a little story about what I learned when I got a new pet too soon.
Back in 2006, I had just moved to New York City with my sister. All four of us moved to a lovely loft in the City and we were so excited to find out what the big city had to offer. When I say all four of us, at the time that meant me, my sister, and my cats Precious and Dusty.
If you have been following my blog you know that Precious was the eldest and Dusty was the youngest. Precious was a tabby cat and Dusty a Siamese and calico mix. The first night we moved into our apartment was bittersweet. Unexpectedly the same day that we moved into the apartment, my eldest cat Precious passed away.
The death of my first cat Precious was devastating and shocking. How could this happen the day we move to the big city?! She was so young only 8 years old! Not only did the death shock both my sister and I, but it was also traumatic for our other cat Dusty. She was always a little skittish and the death of Precious made her want to stay away and be reclusive. I really think animals know just as much about death and grief as we do.
Anyway, after a couple weeks and some time had passed, I could tell Dusty was a bit melancholy. She was not her perky self. Now this is where my misjudgment comes into play. Dusty’s not-so-perky nature communicated to me that she was sad and lonely. So I decided that perhaps it was time for us to get her a companion cat…a new buddy and bestie.
Coincidentally enough a dear friend of mine at work mentioned she had a friend that had a cat that needed a good home. Knowing that I just lost my oldest cat, how I love cats and had the space to welcome a new one, my friend suggested I take him in. I thought the timing of this happening was all a sign. Knowing that Dusty was sad and wanting to cheer her up I said “Okay.”
So a few days later the day came when our new family member was coming home. (To protect the names of the innocent, let’s just call him Piglet). Piglet was a young cat only about 2 years old or so however was a larger cat. My friend came with her girlfriend and the new addition and the initial meeting went well. I had no reason to foresee any drama in the future. The owner even said, “Thanks for taking him in and giving him a new home. BUT if things don’t work out I can take him back.”
I remember those words vividly because my gut reaction and thoughts to myself were “Ha! That’s not going to be an issue or a factor. I’m not giving Piglet back. Why would I do that? He’s here to stay.”
Well it only took a few days to see things weren’t going to pan out like I thought. Although Piglet was on his best behavior while company was present, it was a different story when the cats were alone. My sister and I worked 9 to 5 jobs so when we returned home, we saw the aftermath of the effects my decision had made.
So how did I know something was wrong? What I realized is that Dusty’s timid nature didn’t stop as Piglet spent more time in the house. Although Dusty was the older cat, Piglet was definitely the alpha cat. Dusty would usually run and hide in opposite rooms of where Piglet was. The irony is that Piglet made himself at home, but to Dusty he was an intimidator.
This leads me to the climax of my story. After returning from work one day later in the week, my sister and I came home to find Piglet lounging around the house but Dusty nowhere in sight. We would call out for her and look in our rooms, under our beds, behind furniture and her favorite hiding places and nothing. UNTIL…I saw some fur and eyeballs peeking out from behind the microwave. WHAT!! Good lord, Dusty was that scared and frightened that the only place she found that Piglet couldn’t get to her was on the kitchen counter in the corner behind the microwave.
Poor baby! I felt awful. As much as we tried to get them together and cordial it just wasn’t working. And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, everything came to a head at the end of the following week. I believe it was a Saturday morning and I had just woken up. Because Dusty was so uncomfortable the past several days, I had let her sleep in my room on my bed. I even had her litter pan in the room in case she had to go in the middle of the night. I had the door shut so Piglet couldn’t come in. That strategy worked and she seemed more comfortable.
However, when I awoke, Dusty was up too and on alert. She could sense Piglet was outside the door. As Dusty sat atop the middle of my bed amongst the covers I opened the door slowly to find Piglet eager to greet me for his morning breakfast. As I opened the door, the sheer presence of his image scared Dusty to the point where she peed on herself right then and there! No lie! I remember it like it was slow motion. Imagine my reenactment, “Dusty noooooooo!” (in my slow motion voice!) I went to scoop her up but was too late. The round circular puddle had formed on the space around her bottom. She was petrified.
It was in that instant that I knew this was all a mistake. I misread Dusty’s sadness and grief after Precious died as a sign that she needed another companion. What I realize now is that animals need a moment to grieve too and that‘s okay. It also takes them time to get back to normal as well. Because I misread Dusty’s emotions I caused her undo stress and drama.
It was at that moment I knew I had to make that phone call I never thought I’d make. “Hello? Hi. This is Kamira so and so’s friend. I never thought I’d say this but can we arrange for you to pick up Piglet? It’s not working out.”
I was so disappointed and surprised that everything ended this way. I did not foresee it. My intentions were pure and I only wished Dusty had comfort with a friend to help her heal. What I learned is that once Piglet returned with her former owner, Dusty started to revert back into her jovial curious self. It took some time, reassurance, and lots of hugs from us to convince her it was now just the three of us in this apartment. My sister and I made a conscious effort to give her extra attention, cuddles, yum yum treats and belly rubs to help reassure her she was home in a new city, safe, loved and not alone.
I learned that the only thing my pet needed to help heal after losing her sister was the love of both of us, just as we always had. Sometimes we make mistakes with good intentions only to realize we never needed to go outside our home to find healing, the love residing inside was more than enough.