In From the Cold (Part II)

Now that Sasha has been with us for a full two weeks, it seems safe to say that she is now part of our family. My wife and I have checked the Michigan Humane Society website for lost cat postings, along with several other websites and Facebook groups dealing locally with lost pets, local veterinarians and PetSmart stores, and have made posts of our own trying to track down the cat's owners. We haven't received any replies or feedback that could reunite Sasha with her previous family, nor have we seen any postings anywhere, either online or around the neighborhood where she was found, that would indicate anybody was even looking for her. Abandoning pets is a particularly harsh brand of cruelty I will never understand. I do understand that they are expensive and time-consuming, and some people discover they lack the resources to care for an animal accordingly. It happens. But there are other options besides abandonment. Give them to a shelter, take them to the humane society. Give them a fucking chance at surviving and being happy. Pets are not disposable items. They're not garbage that you can just throw out the window of your car and be done with. Taking a domesticated animal and forcing them into the wilderness to fight for survival, especially after they've been declawed, is a disgusting, unmerciful act of ignorance and cruelty. It speaks of an utter lack of respect for life.

If our elder cat, Callie, ever ran away from home, it would an awful ordeal and we would do everything we could to recover her, plastering her pictures and our contact information all over our neighborhood, e-mailing our subdivision, putting flyers in the pet stores and local vet offices, and spreading the word around social media and relying on our friends to help spread the word. We've done a lot of work to try to reunite Sasha with her family, and it seems we've put far more effort into this task than whoever she belonged to, only to meet dead ends in this pursuit.

After bringing Sasha into our home on Monday, Nov. 11, we spent the rest of that week slowly introducing her to Callie and the rest of the house. Callie has been doing OK, but hasn't been pleased with the situation, or with us for allowing this interloper into her territory. There's been a low of growling and hissing, but no overt physical attacks, and Sasha has been quick to back down to Callie's alpha behaviors. The main issue now is food - Sasha is a big eater! Over the last two weeks, she's put on a few pounds and filled out nicely. She's no longer skin and bones, and is eager to eat every few minutes. It's been a challenge to keep her out of Callie's dishes, but I think we devised a good plan to keep them separated only during meal-times now.

Still, Callie hasn't been eating as well as she should be. The addition of a new cat has been stressful on her, and it seems to have curbed her appetite significantly. Over the last few years, she's been losing weight pretty steadily. The vet hasn't been terribly concerned about this in the past, but Maureen after having both cats into the vet on Friday for check-ups, she realizes it's now a more serious issue. If Callie keeps losing weight, it'll wreak havoc with her health and cause organ damage. We definitely want to prevent those kind of problems and see what we can do about getting her to eat more, and if we have to keep her and Sasha separated so that Callie can eat, it's a small sacrifice. We're experimenting with grinding her kibble into a powder and mixing it with the wet food, but the results have been iffy. She's a very picky eater and doesn't seem to want to eat much in the morning. She devoured the food we gave her last night, though, so maybe we can get her to eat more in the evenings.

For Sasha, the real big event over the last week and a half was to finally be allowed out of the master bedroom we'd been keeping her in. She was really excited to explore the house and has adapted to her surroundings rather nicely. She's found a favorite cushion on the couch, directly in front of the fireplace, naturally, and it's been her big go-to spot in the evening. She is also fond of our bed, which is where Callie normally sleeps with us, but has been smartly deferential to the older cat. Sasha does like to stretch out beneath the covers though!

Last Monday, Nov. 18, we had some severe weather and high winds, which we think stressed Sasha out quite a bit. It was the last night we kept her confined (although during this period of confinement, one of us was always in the room with her when we were home and slept there throughout the nights), but she peed a little bit on the carpet, despite knowing where her litter box is. It's the second time overall that she's made a mess of the carpet, but I think the first instance was just a matter of not recognizing the covered litter box as the place to evacuate. Once we took off the cover, there weren't any issues until that last incident. We had bought a calming diffuser that plugs into the outlet, and installed it in that room. However, we lost power, so it was unable to generate the calming mist... Since she hasn't had any problems using the litter box since, we think the problem is solved, but will need to monitor it.

We're now testing the waters with letting Sasha roam free while we're at work and away from the house, with only Callie to supervise her. It's hard to say how much they'll bond, if at all, but I've been impressed with our older cat's behavior. Callie hasn't lashed out or been overly aggressive, and even her hissing and growling seems to be tapering off slowly. After a few minutes in the same room, she'll calm down and both cats can enjoy our company quietly and without any hysterics. It could still take quite a bit of time, but her defensiveness seems to be weakening bit by bit as she realizes that Sasha is not a threat to her.

My wife and I have the room and means to support the extra cat, so we're happy to work with them and get both cats habituated. Sasha has been adapting to the house well, is beginning to respond to her new name (when found, there were no tags to ID her, and she hadn't been chipped), and is typically very calm and very laid back. We would much rather keep her and get back to being a two-cat household (we lost our previous cat, Godiva, over the summer), then put her up for adoption or give her to a shelter. She won us over very quickly. She's cute and playful, and it's hard for us not to love her. If her previous owners were not able, or were simply unwilling, to give her a suitable home environment, Maureen and I are more than happy to take over and give her a new forever-home. She's a darling little animal, and I would hate to see anything bad happen to her. She's seen enough suffering, and I know we can give her a lot of love and affection to keep her one happy, cool little cat.

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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