Monday, June 7, 2010

Cats: A Love Hate Relationship

Gaius and cats have a love hate relationship in that cats hate him, and he love love love love love LOVES them. I would say this has been one of the biggest challenges that I've had taking him places to visit (well, other than potty training issues but that is pretty much a dachshund trait right?). Almost everyone I know is a cat person (well outside the folks I know from dog stuff obviously). Now I don't really like to take sides in that particular battle (dogs vs cats is a subject I'm sure I'll explore more in the future). But this means whenever I bring my pup over what happens could be described as 50% battle Royal and 50% crazed fan worship.

This is especially true at my parents house and my boyfriends parents house (Remember I talked about kitty lock down in my last post. Pekoe is particularly anti-puppy), but it certainly has cropped up at a friend or twos. I think his poor kitty social skills began right after we got him. Let me explain:

We both hate bath time

Do you see the Grey Persian in the two pictures above? Well that's our cat Gracie. Gracie is named after the street on which we found her (Grace Street in Richmond). We were hanging out with a few friends and up hobbles the saddest, skinniest, looking grey dust ball. She purred and cooed at us and climbed into our laps, just sweet as can be. She suckered us into taking her home and fixing her up. What a liar.

For the first two year this was the meanest strangest cat I've ever owned. Hated being touched, hated being looked at. We'd have to tell guests not to touch her, even if she purred and rubbed against them (You know, the normal signs cats give when they want attention). Because if you happened to reach your hand out to this monster you'd leave bleeding. She'd curl up in our guests laps and they'd sit there like stiff robots, knowing the slightest move would result in swift retribution. She was also just strange and very poorly named. She's still the least graceful cat I've ever met. We figured being out on the streets so long meant she had received some kind of brain damage from a poor diet or some kind of trama. I'm still convinced she originated from some backyard breeder and when he realized that the inbreeding had resulted in such an awful personality he tossed the cat out. We'll never know. We did however start calling her swiss cheese for brains.

She also HATED other cats. Our friend Becky brought over her new kitten once, which caused Gracie to have a complete mental breakdown (not far for her to go in all honesty....). After seeing the unwanted intruder she let out a screech and darted under the dresser in my room. From there she continued the ungodly yowling. I mean sounds I've never heard from a cat before. The visiting kitten was shocked. It slowly crept into my bedroom to get a better look at its deranged compatriot. This caused the screaming to increase to an almost unbelievable volume (I worried for my downstairs neighbors) and caused the dresser to shake like posed furniture in a Steven King novel. The kitten gave me a look that really said 'what the heck is up with her'. "No clue," I said shrugging.

So imagine our fear when we decided to get a puppy. Not like a lab puppy. I mean a three pound rat sized puppy. "She's going to eat him," I told Sean once with a sort of morbid certainty as the day to pick up our puppy came closer. "No", he responded "She'll just spend the next ten years screaming from under the dresser". As the day of new arrival got closer my excitement about it decreased and my anxiety rose. As much of a pain as this cat was, I really do want what's best for her.. most of the time (Sean and I do have a nasty habit of joking about how great it would be if she fell out the window, because we could get a kitten >.< ). And the idea that we were about to increase her degree of stress ten fold I really found upsetting. But to our surprise this wasn't the case. She met the new addition with intense curiosity. "She's trying to figure out the best way to kill him without ruining his flavor" I told Sean while biting my fingernails the first time they were introduced. He just laughed at me. But as the days and weeks passed she seemed genuinely (and non-aggressively) interested in the little fellow. The video that follows is a good depiction of their interactions in his first few months home with us.

See, cute, nice, sweet. As time went on the dynamic switched slightly. Gaius became more interested in her and she less interested in him. By the time he had reached six months old their relationship was more that of adoring younger brother and patient but annoyed and disinterested older sister. But she still stayed extremely gentle with him. To my knowledge she has still never intentionally used her claws on him, or bitten hard enough to cause him any pain. And trust me, he's deserved it.

As Gaius moved into that tear your hair out adolescent period of dog hood (from about 7 months until.... is it over yet?) he started becoming downright obnoxious with his kitty companion. Some of his favorite activities involve licking the inside of her ears (I mean sticking his tongue in there so deep he can probably taste her brain), if she's sleeping under the couch or table he'll bark at her right in her face over and over, for hours until I get irritated and tell him to stop (what can you do, he's a little earth dog), and if he feels she is being too boring he has been known to try and play tug with her tail (On a few notable occasions he's yanked her off the couch by her tail). She has met all of this inappropriate behavior with calm patience and understanding. Calming mewing to tell him of her discomfort and maybe a light swat on the nose (no claws of course, that would be an over reaction). This from the cat that used to break the skin if you accidentally brushed against her while reaching past her to get something. It was a Christmas miracle... or something.

This has left me with dilemma, of all the anxieties I had about introducing Gracie to a puppy I NEVER thought I'd have a problem with her over indulging him. I thought she'd teach him very quickly the ins and outs of dog/cat interactions with swift Soviet style justice. But no such luck. this has left me with a dog who is so excited when he sees new cats he can't contain himself. And running at cats full tilt is not an acceptable greeting, even if all he wants to do is lick their faces. And it means he's had some not so hot introductions with other less tolerant cats. To be honest though I know this is a problem that can be solved with clicker training, but the amount of time and effort to fix it seems overwhelming. I think I'm also stuck getting kittens for the rest of my life so they grow up used to the crazed behavior of their biggest fan and won't be terrified of him the rest of their lives. Sigh.

So let's hear from you? How do your dogs feel about cats?

Best Buddies

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