We have a new addition to our household: a gorgeous fluffy black cat called George.
[album 128913 george.jpg]
Acquiring George was a bit of an impulsive decision – on Wednesday a friend forwarded this email to me that she’d just been sent:

Can anyone in Christchurch offer a home to a beautiful, black, long-haired cat named George? George is around 4 years old, neutered and quite timid. He has always been an only cat.

George belongs to my sister-in-law and has not had a very nice life. His treatment at the hands of my step-nephew can best be described as “boisterous”. My sister-in-law has never liked George, although she has never actively treated him badly. My brother doesn’t like George and subjects him to constant verbal abuse which even my sister-in-law finds upsetting. George has moved house three times in the last two years, which has unnerved him quite a lot. Last winter George had to sleep outside in a cardboard box every night. My brother refuses to allow him a cat flap. Protests from the rest of our family have sadly fallen on deaf ears.

I would take George myself without hesitation, but my fiance won’t allow it. He may be right as we already have three cats and I expect they would be too intimidating for George.

I believe that with lots of love George could blossom and become a very happy cat.

If I can’t find a home for George he will end up at the Cats’ Protection League.

Please contact me at the email address or phone numbers below if you can help.

My immediate thought was “Poor George! I want to help but getting a third cat probably isn’t a sensible idea.” But I rang MrPloppy anyway, expecting him to confirm that we really couldn’t cope with three cats. Of course, he’s just as big a softy as I am, so before we knew it the discussion had shifted round from “we really can’t manage a third cat” to “how can we manage a third cat?”… and by the end of the afternoon I’d replied to the email and offered to take George. I wasn’t sure if our offer would be accepted, because I’d pointed out we already had two cats so it might not be the ideal situation for him, but the person who’d sent the original email said she hadn’t had any other replies, and she was desperate to get George rehoused as soon as possible, so she’d contact her sister-in-law and arrange for them to drop him off at the weekend!!!

I’ve read all the theory on introducing a new cat into an existing cat’s home, but theory is quite often different to the practice in these situations, so now that we were actually committed to taking George, we were in a bit of a panic. We decided we’d isolate him in the spare room for the first few weeks, and gradually introduce him to Ming and Saffy once they’d had a while to get used to the smell of each other. So first step was to turn the room (which we’d been using as an extra office/junk storage room) into somewhere I wouldn’t feel too bad about imprisoning a cat in – which of course meant spending vast amounts of money on odourless cat litter, a litter tray (Ming and Saffy have never had one, because they go outside), and extra food and water dishes; sacrificing our biggest, fluffiest towel to make a comfy bed for him to sleep in; rounding up all the cat toys that Ming and Saffy have never been interested in playing with (Saffy’s preferred toy is any pen or pencil she can bat off the desk onto the floor, and Ming likes those plastic rings off the top of milk bottles – balls and catnip-filled mice can never compete!); and arranging the room to maximise the number of sunny spots during the day. I think we put more effort into setting up that room than we ever have for human guests!

Anyway, Saturday finally arrived, and so did George. His old owners dropped him off, and while they seemed perfectly nice, it was obvious they just weren’t really cat people – there just didn’t seem to be any empathy with him at all. Which seems impossible to beleive, because he’s the most affectionate cat I’ve ever met. We let him out of his box and I sat and patted him while I talked to his owners about the practical stuff (what food he was used to, vaccinations, when he’d last been wormed, etc), and after a few moments’ nervousness he quickly settled down and was purring away loudly. I thought it was just relief at being out of the car, but all weekend whenever either of us went into his room he’d start purring, and run over to rub against our legs – I think he’s just been really lonely in his previous home and is starved for attention. Otherwise, he seems pretty healthy (we’ll probably take him to the vet for a general check-up in a few weeks, but I want him to get settled in first – a stressful vet visit is probably not what he needs right now), and is incredibly well-adjusted for a cat that hasn’t been in a loving environment – he’s nowhere near as timid as I expected him to be, and hasn’t been at all agressive (even playing with him he keeps his claws pretty much sheathed, which is something Ming and Saffy have never learnt!). We shut Ming and Saffy in the kitchen on Saturday evening and left George’s door open so he could come out and explore the rest of the house a bit, and after a bit of cautious sniffing he seemed pretty happy (well, apart from a bit of a fright when he spotted Saffy through the glass door into the kitchen – there was some hissing and spitting on each side, but nowhere near as bad as I’d feared), and when we repeated of the exercise last night he was much more confident, and wandered around happily investigating odd corners – and best sign of all, when he saw Ming and Saffy through the glass door, there was no hissing on either side, just a bit of intense staring. We’re going to attempt a short closely supervised meeting between George and Ming tonight (Saffy’s a bit more territorial, so we’ll give her a few more days to get used to having his smell around the place before she meets him face to face) and see how things go… all the books say you should leave it a week or so before introducing them, but Ming seems pretty relaxed about it all – he’s sniffed round the door to George’s room a bit, but seems more curious than annoyed, so we thought it’s worth a try (we won’t force them together or anything, of course, just leave George’s door open while Ming’s in the lounge and let George wander out and say hello if he wants to). Wish us luck!

Currently reading: Cosmonaut Keep by Ken MacLeod

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