New cat in the house

“The naming of cats is a difficult matter…” T. S. Eliot

Last week I learned that the Salvageable household would be gaining a new member. A nine-month-old kitten was available for adoption; his sponsoring agency said that he is so friendly that “he never met a stranger.” We have had a vacancy in the household since Beau faded away last spring, so I was quick to approve the addition. Still, fees had to be paid and paperwork had to be filed, and his move-in date was delayed until yesterday. Monday being a holiday, it was a good day to welcome a cat into the house, since members of the family were going to be at home.

The new cat was to be claimed at 1:00 p.m. I waited at the house while another family member went out to complete the adoption. As she returned, she was closely followed by two other cars. Two of my daughters, who are championship dancers, had a holiday event at midday. Expecting to meet the new cat, they skipped lunch with their teacher and fellow dancers to rush home, nearly arriving before the cat had entered the house.

He explored thoroughly and quickly made himself at home. In very little time he was accepting affection, trying out laps, and playing with toys. The only fly in the ointment was the disapproval of our five-year-old, found-in-a-Walmart-parking-lot cat. She hid under the dining room table, hissing and spitting when he got too close. We still believe that the two of them will become friends. In fact, one reason for adopting a kitten was to reduce her loneliness when people are away and to give her more opportunity for exercise. However, even though she was able to accept a small dog in her house for a few hours last week with no emotion beyond mild curiosity, the addition of a playful kitten was jarring to her emotional equilibrium.

The new cat is black-furred with pumpkin-orange eyes. He has a long tail and big feet, all indications that he is going to get a bit bigger and stronger in the next few months. We are probably going to have to buy a squirt gun to enforce the house rules for cats: no clawing the furniture, no jumping onto the dining room table or kitchen counters. (Come to think of it, those actions are forbidden to human family members as well.) Like most young cats, he is playful, curious, energetic, but also eager to receive love and affection from the people in his life.

After supper, we had a surprising revelation about our new cat. My youngest daughter picked up a cat toy and tossed it across the room for him to chase. He scampered after it, picked it up in his mouth, ran back to her, and dropped it at her feet. We have a kitten who plays “fetch.” In fact, he continued that game much longer than any of his previous play periods of the day.

With three other people to meet, I was the last to get much attention from him. To me that comes as no surprise; bonding of humans and cats often seems to be cross-gender (male cats favoring female humans and female cats preferring male humans). So after a while I went downstairs to read, as is my custom in the evenings. Soon the new cat appeared, explored the library, and finally found his way onto my lap. He made it plain to me that he loves me just as much as he loves the rest of the family. For that matter, he woke me up twice during the night to make sure that I still love him and to reassure me that he still loves me.

The biggest challenge, apart from persuading the cats to be friends, is finding a name for the new cat. We agreed that his name must match his personality but also must have dignity. (We weren’t responsible for naming Beau, although we did change the spelling of his name.) This cat had been named Midnight, but we decided that Midnight did not fit him. Nor did he seem to respond to the name. One family member strongly urged the name Fiyero, the reason being that the musical “Wicked” has been in town this month. I was least appreciative of Fiyero, both because I didn’t enjoy the performance of “Wicked”—more about that in another post—and because the name sounds like a car model rather than a cat. Tybalt was strong in the running for a while. My youngest daughter opted for Sir Isaac Newton, and by evening she was already calling him “Sir.” With that inspiration, I suggested that we consider a name from the Arthurian legends. Once that was said, we quickly agreed upon Galahad.

So, now Galahad is part of the family. I’m eager to learn how his first full day in the household has gone, whether the other cat has calmed enough to accept him into the family, and how he deals with people coming and going because they have jobs, classes, and other obligations. I know that Galahad will be a valuable member of the family, even if I will have to close him out of the bedroom at night to allow me to get my sleep. J.

Out of the doghouse

I have been in the doghouse for a few days, ever since my older cat found out that I wrote a post about my younger cat. (Even now he is watching to make sure that I write “older cat” and not “other cat.”) He has been in the house much longer than she has, and he does not accept any explanation for the fact that she was introduced to the internet first.

He came from an animal shelter, but it was quickly obvious that he is a “people cat.” If people are in the house, he is determined to be with one or more of them—he is happiest when several people are in the same room. Sometimes he goes from person to person demanding attention; other times, he just sits or lies in the middle of the group and happily listens to the voices. At nighttime, he has the uncanny ability to cause every member of the household to believe that he spent the entire night sleeping in his or her bed.

He is very much an athlete. He likes to jump onto high pieces of furniture. When he is in the mood, he even sleeps atop the china cabinet. He likes to prowl along a row of bookcases from one end to the other. When he is in a wild mood, he likes to run full speed across the room, onto the bookcases, from one end to the other and back again, and then out of the room. When he is not so wild, he likes to balance himself on narrow surfaces—a handrail that is about two inches wide but curved, or the headboard of the bed, which is less than an inch wide—and walk from one end to the other and back again. One of his favorite tricks is to walk the length of the headboard, climb onto the round bedpost until all four feet are on that curved surface, and then jump from there onto the top of a six-foot-tall bookcase.

Only rarely is he a lap cat. He would rather lie or stand next to a person on a couch and be pet. Sometimes he will walk back and forth on and off the lap; he has also been known to perch on the arm of an occupied easy chair and demand attention.

He also likes to sit on a four-legged stool and supervise cooking in the kitchen. He watches the actions of the cook with interest, but his favorite human food is cooked chicken. His love for that smell makes him forgetful of the house rules, as he will climb off the stool onto the counter in search of the chicken. Like a two-year-old child, he has learned the meaning of the word “no,” and he responds with a similar sound when he is removed from a place where he does not belong. He often joins the family during meals, and if the smell is to his liking he will try to get from the floor to a lap or chair and from there to the table. Sometimes—as with the Thanksgiving turkey—he has to be closed in a bedroom for the duration of a meal so the rest of us can eat in peace.

Like my younger cat, he expects a great deal of attention and affection when everyone has been out of the house for a few hours or has been asleep for a few hours. He is very vocal about his needs and desires. When his food dish is empty, he runs back and forth between the nearest person and the dish with such anxiety that sometimes we tease him by saying, “What’s the matter? Has Timmy fallen into the well again?” He is never resentful of our teasing, although he does lay back his ears and object to the line, “I t’ought I taw a puddy-tat.”

Black cats are supposed to be bad luck, but he has brought the family nothing but good luck. He is a beautiful cat with short black fur and yellow eyes. He generally is a very forgiving cat, and now that I have written about him, I believe that I shall be allowed out of the doghouse. J.