My Kids Move In!
It was a long time coming, but the day finally arrived on 25 December 2019: my kids joined me in the house, and a wild, bumpy ride it was. Nothing went as I'd hoped, and indeed it was a bit worse than I'd feared. I'd expected a certain degree of chaos—that's a given with cats—but this move was especially stressful. Fortunately it all ended well, and quite suddenly, too, as if a switch had been thrown.
After transferring their litter and food over from the camper, at around 8:30 AM I released all of them from their carriers simultaneously inside Kitty Central, with the human door closed and the kitty door to the rest of the house blocked off so they could become acclimated to their own special room first.
This process took significantly longer than expected—like, unbelievably long. Zack was the first one out, whereas it was a half-hour before Pris emerged from her carrier, and Roy finally came out a half-hour after that. Progress was so slow that I began to think I might not release them into the rest of the house until the next day, because it was critical that they learn about the most important room in their new home before their world got any bigger.
By 10:30 I'd left them alone in the room because I was getting hungry, and after I ate I started composing this page. I figured eventually they'd get hungry, too, and then need to use the litter box, at which point they'd be forced to do a little recon and figure out where stuff was. I honestly didn't know whether it was better for me to be in there with them or not; every time I checked on them, they were all huddled together in the corner. Most distressing.
Upon each subsequent visit, the boys seemed a little better adjusted; Pris, on the other hand, remained in the corner. The best part was when Bobby came to say hi: he sat in the window box staring intently at Roy and Zack on the other side of the invisible force field, acting like he wanted to play in the worst way; he seemed to be having the most fun of everybody. Then, around 1:30, I think all of the stress got Roy "blocked up," and I could tell he was in some pain. A wave of dread came over me—this could mean a trip to the emergency room before he even had a chance to settle in.
3:00 PM: Pris was still huddled in the corner looking profoundly depressed, and my anxiety spiked even higher. I could only hope that hunger would eventually snap her out of it. By 3:30 I was beside myself, and decided all I could do was change the dynamics of the situation: I removed the barrier to the rest of the house. Zack took a short trip outside, then quickly retreated. I figured, OK, if they feel Kitty Central has become their "safe place," then that's a good thing; I'd wanted it to be like that. But they weren't behaving at all like the dozens of other cats I've relocated over the years. I went to bed shaking with anxiety; all I could do was brace myself for a possible trip to the vet hospital in the morning if Roy didn't improve.
The second day started bright and early, when I awoke to howling at 1:30 AM. Zack had made it halfway down the stairs and froze. So I spent the next few hours trying to coax them down into the house. Curiously, it was Roy—in his first appearance outside Kitty Central, and looking a little better than before—who ventured out into the great unknown, starting with the bookcase, which fascinated him no end; then he discovered the cubby (that didn't take long!), and from there he began investigating the kitchen. Meanwhile, Pris and Zack remained glued to the stairs, occasionally striking up a chorus.
Around 5:00 AM, just when I thought we were all making some progress, everyone threw a rod all at once and started growling, hissing and whacking at each other, with Roy being the nastiest of the bunch by far—he even started growling and hissing at me. Finally I went and hid in my office for the next two hours while the fur flew. There was nothing I could do about it; they needed to sort this out amongst themselves.
When things went quiet, I emerged from the office hoping they'd reached some sort of détente. But I couldn't find Roy. I'd seen him duck behind the refrigerator, which is sitting in the wall oven opening, and I thought it was an acceptable hidey-hole for him. But when I took a peek behind the fridge, Roy wasn't there. And then I saw it: one last opening I'd overlooked, one that led right under all of the kitchen cabinets—a vast network of spaces just big enough for a frightened cat... whereupon I felt my stomach drop out of my body. There was no fetching him out of there so I could plug the hole; I'd have to wait until hunger drew him out, and that could take hours. Well, I needed to run some errands, so that seemed as good a time as any.
When I returned two hours later, Roy was still in hiding. And after a couple more hours, I decided enough was enough. I "fished" him out with a piece of plastic tubing I pushed through a hole at the far end of the cabinets. After a little twisting and wriggling, Roy popped out—looking none too pleased—and made a beeline for Kitty Central. I figured I wouldn't be seeing him downstairs again for a good long while. Indeed, the other two hadn't left Kitty Central the whole day, so I imagined I'd see them, what, in a week?
And then... a miracle happened. Around 2:00 PM, suddenly all three of them were down exploring the kitchen together. That lasted about two hours, and then everyone moved on to the rest of the house. And when they found the bed, OMG, they found heaven. I've never seen such a happy hoard of creatures! Now I just hope they'll settle down and let me get some sleep...
Claws and All
My kids are not declawed. I consider the procedure cruel and unnecessary (and in fact I believe it's against the law in New Jersey—good!). To those who complain their cats destroy their "nice things," I have the following to say: 1) if you value your "nice things" over your cats, then you don't deserve to have cats; 2) if the cats are that destructive, then you're not giving them enough attention, proper training, or objects they're allowed to claw. People are sometimes amazed that my house isn't torn up, and I just tell them cats can be trained, despite so many disbelievers.
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