Wishing and hoping (and hissing and growling)

It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye adopts a kitten.

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The calm and peace in our house is nonexistent a delicate balance. As long as everyone has the right amount of exercise and attention, and we are armed with some good treats, we can definitely sit through at least 20 minutes of quiet. You know, at least once a week. Also, only if you remember to sing the alphabet backwards first thing when you get up, and tap your nose three times within 10 minutes of walking through the front door.

I’m just kidding. We are not that superstitious, and it is not quite that precarious. But just to give you a rundown of the beasts, we have:

Daphne, who is basically a perfect angel. Seriously, her flaws at home are very nearly nonexistent. We love you, Daphne.

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calm and beauteous.

Lenny, who is a sweetheart, but shrieks bloody murder if she sees a squirrel outside. Additionally, she shrieks EXTRA bloody murder if she sees a cat outside. We let her meet the cats when she was a puppy, and based on how that went, she now lives downstairs on one side of some baby gates, and the cats live upstairs on the other side of the baby gate. Lenny also screams if she *hears* cats – so if the cats run across the room, or chase a toy, or hiss or growl or meow, Lenny lets the neighborhood know. Not to mention that Lenny recently decided she was no longer fan of her crate, so she warped the bars and broke out. No more crate for Lenny.

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Piper is a gorgeous, elegant cat who has her own gosh darn opinions, including that the dogs would be much better looking with some long, thin scratches across their faces. Lest you think Lenny’s screaming is one-sided, just let her and Piper meet at the baby gate and you have a screaming dog and a popcorn cat (see: a cat that makes a popping sounds and darts someone erratically towards the dog and up in the air). Let’s just say that we are not getting any training done with these two.

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Piper glaring at the kitten under the door, then deciding to slink back to her room.

And finally, because all is calm and boring around here (if you couldn’t tell from the above, just take my word for it), we have Noah. Noah was on strict crate rest for the first month that we had him, and he has been loose in his room for the last 3 weeks. One highlight of having Noah is that, since he hasn’t been crated, he will stick his paw out from under the door at points through the day. Piper will then approach the door and hiss and growl at Noah’s paw. Lenny will then start screaming and running through the house and will destroy something in all her excitement. We have come home to quite the scene.

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Given the drama described above, we are introducing these beasts very slowly and systematically.

First, we blocked the bottom of Noah’s door, and we are doing a very simple exposure program with the cats. Since Noah is crate trained, we are exposing him to Piper while he is in a crate and Piper is getting treats (and is at a distance from him where she will eat). As of this weekend, Piper will sit within 3-4 feet of his crate and accept treats with absolutely no hissing and growling! Hooray!

Second, we are slowly introducing Noah to the angel dog Daphne. Daphne will completely ignore Noah in the presence of treats, so we have her lie down at a distance and take treats while he is in the same room. We found that he wouldn’t eat at all while he could see her, so right now we are just doing very brief exposures in his room with no interaction, and after about a minute, she leaves. We’ve done this 2 or 3 times, and, while he is still puffing up, he is no longer hiding under the futon. Yesterday, he approached her and then sat and watched her from about 2 feet away. His tail was puffy and his eyes sure were wide, but he was just sitting and watching. Progress!

And, finally, we got another Manner’s Minder. In all honesty, we bought a second one because we lost the remote for the first one, and a new remote costs only half as much as the whole package, so we just bought another package. Having two of these is magical. Both dogs lie quietly with theirs, there is no fighting over the machine, and we can have it going off periodically while introducing the cats.

All in all, it is definitely chaotic, and it is definitely a delicate balance. To be fair, this is not all happening all the time, but it certainly is a lot of moving parts that we are trying to move slowly and safely.

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These two moving parts are poised to bark at something somewhere (a truck? a squirrel? a passerby? someone who is thinking about doing something somewhere?)

I have been finding hope when reading on Maggie’s blog, Oh My Dog, about her integration success. I was also excited to see this post. We are in the process, too, of collecting cat trees, so that the cats will have some vertical escape space, but we haven’t gotten there yet, so nothing to report so far.

Have you successfully integrated a multispecies household (and please don’t tell me if you just threw them together and “they worked it out!”)? What was the best thing you did? What was the worst?

3 Comments

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3 Responses to Wishing and hoping (and hissing and growling)

  1. You can do it!! :) Thanks so much for the shout-out on the victory post, but I should note that there were six stressful months preceding that success. The way you described all the moving parts is so right on. That’s how I felt. I actually wrote out a bunch of sticky notes with our training plans just to keep it all straight… and we only had the one cat! I know you can do it, though! Can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!

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