Kitten Introductions

As much as I would have loved to film the first interactions between Happy the Dog and Team Kitten, I couldn’t risk being distracted during this critical process.  Happy has been SO GOOD, and just like him he tries SO HARD.  His intellect is intense and he understands he must be friends with the new kittens, yet his dog instincts and his puppyhood experiences trigger anxieties and memories.  My main goal is to create only positive interactions between the dog and the kittens for the first month, until the kittens are past the 16 week mark where they imprint on their experiences.  

Sunshine has one lesson to teach them:  Give Grandma Space.  They do!  Rupert and Mikey were raised with not just a mom cat but four auntie cats, all of whom taught them proper kitten etiquette around superior ranking female cats.  It’s incredible to watch.  

Rupert: “what’s in this tube?  I want to look.”

Sunshine: “My tube.” (Hiss)

Rupert: “Where’s my brother?  We have some urgent playing to do in the other room.”

They both immediately back off when she vocalizes at them, and her hisses are… I’d say on a scale of 1-5 where 1 is a grumble and 5 is an apocalyptic siren sounded only during blood draws, her hiss is about a 2.  So far, the kittens have not pushed her established boundaries.

Happy is another matter.  We know from experience he will want to follow the kittens around with his nose in their butt for about a month after they’re fully integrated, another reason why we want to wait until they’re big enough for a dog shadow to not be scary for them.

Last night I kept Happy in my lap or arms while we watched Team Kitten explore the ground floor.  After a half hour. I put Happy on the floor with them, with my hands still on his shoulders reminding him to be calm, gentle and friendly with the kittens.  I encouraged him slowly forward and he met Rupert with a wagging tail and gentle yet nervous manner.  Rupert was a bit unsure of this strange dog, so he hopped on a kitchen chair to feel safer.

Mikey remembers Happy from his last life as Leo, and Happy is beginning to remember him.  Rupert is more outgoing than Mikey inmost cases, but when it came to the dog, Mikey marched right up to Happy and they touched noses, Happy wagging his tail.  

It’s so interesting how Rupert seems to be the “new” animal in the family, and Mikey is simply exploring the new house.  (We had just moved to Tofino when Leo passed away.)  

I am explaining to the kittens about being indoor cats.  Ragdolls are bred to be compliant, and the result is a lack of outdoor cat common sense.  They are less likely to run from or fight a threat, they’d just go limp, like a fainting goat.  They also have very little to fear, and so approach life with no caution and all curiosity.  Finally, most cats given free reign outside in their kitten hood don’t live to see 2 years old.  

Sunshine and Leo had been indoor / outdoor cats when they ended up in the humane society, and both had been abandoned outside.  I kept them inside while we lived in Toronto, and gave them access to the outdoors after we moved to Ucluelet.  They were predator savvy and watched the skies for Eagles, they kept close to the house, but even so they had a few altercations with Oakey, the reigning cat king of the neighbourhood.  Oakey is responsible for scratching Sunshine and the resulting abcess, a time that has gone down in family history as “the summer I washed the cat’s ass.”  It was unpleasant for all concerned.

Ultimately, I’ll build a crazy cat lady enclosure for the boys.  Meanwhile, in our lovely home, they have plenty of space, one dog friend and a Professor Mcgonnagle cat grandmother.

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