Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

The amount of progress in getting the cats and dog to coexist in the last week has been considerable and quite impressive. Once we stopped keeping them apart all the time and started forcing them to be in the same room, and rode out the resulting overexcited reactions from Socks, a few times, they started to acclimate. Aggressive use of treating Socks for being calm in the presence of the cats also went a long way.

Now Socks can lie still and calm with a cat mere yards away, most of the time. Once in a while she shows a little more interest than the cats are comfortable with, and gets hissed at or swatted at for her trouble, and may even cause some havoc with lunging towards them (heedlessly barreling over furniture or people on the way), but this happens less and less, and is much more easily contained. Socks has come a long way in a short time.

The cats have also made some strides. They're comfortable coming out into the living room when Socks is there, and even know to use their ramps any time they like. However, they're not so much using them to get away from Socks, because they've learned that Socks is a pushover. Either one of them, even River who is tiny and only about six and a half pounds, can chase Socks and she'll run away, and the cats take a little too much comfort in this, and are often more mean to Socks than is necessary. Their icy, hiss-filled reactions are warming much more slowly, so slowly that sometimes I wonder if they're really easing at all; cats are less ready to learn than dogs, and far less motivated, so there's less we can do to hurry the process along. Sometimes I think that I should have made ramps for Socks to escape the cats with instead of vice-versa!

Unfortunately this progress has brought us into another phase of chaos and misery. The cats are young, rambunctious, undisicplined, and let's face it, like all cats they're complete sociopaths. They couldn't care less about breaking your stuff, keeping you awake, gouging chunks out of your skin, and doing anything else they please, and expect to be able to cuddle you seconds after doing all of those things. They learn "no" only very slowly and, unlike a dog, they never actually care about anything other than whether they think they can't get away with doing something. The first few weeks, their noisiness and destructiveness was contained by the fact that they were hiding in one room all the time, but now that they have free reign of the house, they also have every chance to keep us up all night. Which of course they love to do, between their pouncing on everything in sight and their weird insistence on wanting to play with our bedroom door for hours, even when I spray them over and over. (An inexpensive draft dodger seems to have fixed that, though, thank the stars.)

There's also the problem of the cat litter. Specifically, that Socks wants to eat what's in it. We might be able to get around this by putting it up off the floor, but that's unlikely to work. Using an enclosed litterbox won't likely stop her either. Probably the best solution would be to cover the cat poop in cayenne pepper. One or two visits will likely put Socks off litterpan-treats forever. Until we get around to doing that, we have one fence still up screening off the utility room, and I'm oh so eager to see that come down and not have to step my sore knee over gates anymore.

Still, while the things yet to be done are tiresome, the progress we've made is huge. No more gate in the hallway, no more whining and yipping all the time, and I get to see and even pet the cats and feel like they're part of the family. In a few more weeks I might even get the game room back and be able to untarp the MAME cabinet and Asteroids game. (The air hockey table might be a total loss, though. I doubt I can ever stop them treating it as their personal perch, so I can't ever take its blankets off, in which case, why even have it? Unless I can think of a solution to that, I'll just move it back downstairs.)

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