5 Tips to Make Your 10-year old Cat Happy that You Got a Puppy

482562_10152360259261844_6460807_nWhen our adult children bestowed a puppy on us over the 2013 Labor Day weekend, we couldn’t have been more traumatized delighted. In the years immediately preceding this arrival, we had said goodbye to two dogs and three cats. Our remaining cat—Little Mister—is 10 years old and understandably set in his—let’s be honest—spoiled, entitled, lazy, demanding and uncompromising ways.

LM3My distress elation on the first day of Lucy’s arrival caused me to forget about Little Mister until late evening when I opened the back door to coax the puppy outside for a potty. The cat stood on the stoop, ready to dart inside. He stopped and shouted, “What the hell is this?!?” Lucy froze and exclaimed, “Woo-wee, what’s this?” A high-speed chase ensued.

Little Mister didn’t reappear for three days.

The #1 Tip on how to make your elderly cat happy with the new puppy: Refrain from arranging their first meeting on opposite sides of an opened door.

Our previous cats had been introduced to our mature dogs as kittens and we rarely had a problem. I didn’t know how to get a puppy to leave a cat alone without a great deal of screaming and subsequent psychological damage to everyone. I was able to garner a couple of tips from the Internet.

Tip #2: Never leave the cat and the puppy unsupervised. Initially, you’ll find this easy if you fail to heed Tip #1 and your cat disappears for three days.

Tip #3: Whenever the cat enters the room, put the puppy on a leash and remain calm. This is super easy if (A) you always have a leash in your hand, (B) you know the exact moment the cat decides to wake for the night and enter the living room, and (C) you have not been lulled to sleep watching Nova.

Tip #4: Encourage the cat to live upstairs. This works well if you block the stairway with dining room chairs and the puppy does not discover she can take a flying leap over those chairs and race like a greyhound away from you.

Tip #5: Give up and let them work it out.

999784_10152228988656844_1512946115_nAfter five and a half months of Puppy Kindergarten, AKC Good Citizenship training and Little Mister puffing himself to twice his size, flattening his ears, and issuing long growls that would scare the dead, our puppy and 10-year old cat went through a brief period of detente.

However, a few nights ago, Lucy sensed the presence of the cat in the hallway and raced to confirm. Seconds later, Little Mister’s growls filled the air. Lucy barked. Sighing heavily, I extricated myself from the sofa, put on my Solution Architect hat and prepared to mediate.

Little Mister had taken up position near the front door. Lucy approached, wanting to play. Little Mister growled. Lucy barked. Little Mister lashed out with claws bared. Lucy made a hasty backwards retreat while leaving a river of pee.

At least this gave me the needed motivation to mop the hallway.

The following evening, Little Mister came into the living room and jumped on my chair to demand petting. Lucy maintained her cool and stayed on her bed. The cat left for a few minutes and came back. Lucy was highly aware of his movements, but didn’t chase after him. The cat again left the room.

Little Mister came into the living room once again. Apparently, the cat is allowed access to the living room one, even two times a night, but not a third. Definitely not a third time.

1601274_10152360261811844_1457279366_nLucy jumped up and ran at him. Little Mister stood his ground, puffed to the size of a cougar, growled and took a swipe in the air. Lucy backed off. Little Mister advanced, hissing and growling. Lucy backed away until she was under an end table. Little Mister continued to pursue.

Yes, I know that Tip #5 advises to let them work it out, but Little Mister looked poised to jump on Lucy’s face like the Salt Creature in Star Trek and suck the life out of her. I jumped from my chair and placed myself between them. Instead of telling Lucy to “leave it,” the command was leveled at Little Mister. He turned and sauntered across the room to claim my chair and meow for a pet. Lucy trembled beneath the end table.

I wish I could report that we are now living happily ever after. The good news is that I’m pretty well done trying to convince Lucy to listen to me. I realize her ears are better tuned to what the cat is saying. Whenever he says, “I’m going to kill you,” she either backs off peeing or hides under an end table. At this point, we’ll define it as success.

Mother’s Little Helper

The experience of mucking out the garage qualified me to help my friend, Marcia, with the process of sorting through the cavernous workshop her father had built 30 years before his death. Her 87-year old mother, Doris, had sold the property and was being forced to downsize.

I arrived on a Saturday morning to find Doris sitting on a plastic molded chair in the middle of a warehouse of boxes, lumber, furniture, tools, model airplanes, and building materials. In front of her was an open box from which she pulled a wrapped object.

Marcia was chucking cardboard, lumber, sheets of plastic, and various whatnot outside the open roll top doors while her husband, Jerry, sorted and stacked.

“Look at this,” Doris said, holding a clear glass serving bowl.bowl

Marcia whispered, “She admires everything she unwraps. This is going to take forever.” Louder, she said, “What do you want to do with it, Mother? Keep it or put it in the garage sale?”

“I certainly don’t want to give it away,” Doris said. “This is crystal.”

I silently lusted after the bowl. I have an obsession for bowls and chairs. If left untethered, my house would be filled with them.

Doris pondered the bowl’s beauty for a few moments before holding it out to me. “Would you like it?”

I felt guilty—as if by telepathy I’d hypnotized her into the offering. I thanked her and snatched it away before she could change her mind.

Before I continue, I must make a disclaimer similar to the one I was forced into when I had teenagers. Until I was a parent of that age group, I judged others by the behavior of their teens. After my kids became that age, I had to mix a bitter cocktail of my ignorant words and chug it, thus ending those days of judgment.

Current Disclaimer: A person who finds 85 cans of paint hoarded in her garage cannot judge the contents of another person’s storage area.

That being said, here are some of the interesting things Doris discovered in her boxes:

Ten three-ring binders holding sheets of poetry. Over several decades, whenever she found a poem she liked, she’d type it and store it in a binder. She rarely read the poems again. She took comfort in knowing she had them saved for posterity.

Four large recipe boxes filled with 3×5 cards of typed recipes. The largest box was marked, Recipes I Haven’t Tried Yet.

Two boxes labeled Cat Books. She held up one book and said, “If anyone gets a new cat or dog, I have a book to help with names.” The title: Dog and Cat Names. (Fun fact: her cat’s name is Kitty.)hangersclose

Dozens of wire hangers embellished with crochet. Doris admitted she has far more of these than she had clothes to hang them on, but she was unwilling to part with a single one.

The best find of the day was when Doris opened a box containing at least 15 spiral notebooks. She placed her fingertips to her lips and giggled. I was intrigued. What had this pure, dearest of ladies uncovered to embarrass her?

We’d already discovered a 1939 edition of “Marriage and Sex” that she’d purchased shortly before her marriage. This hadn’t raised a blush to her cheeks.

Marcia and I anxiously looked over her shoulder as she opened one of the notebooks. There, in perfect penmanship, on narrow line after line, margin to margin, front and back of each page was—

notebook“When you kids were young, I started copying the Bible.” She giggled and reddened, her darkest secret revealed.

Marcia howled with laughter. “I didn’t know you were doing that.”

“She didn’t drink or smoke,” I said. “What else was she supposed to do to stay sane with three kids running around?”

closeupShe made it to II Samuel and by the looks of it (15 notebooks) it took her a very long time.

Young mothers, take note. There are other ways to relax while raising young children besides sucking vodka through the straw of a juice box (“No, honey, the Berry Blast is mine; you get the strawberry.”), smoking pot behind a bush in the back yard, or saying you’re taking a vitamin when it’s really the dog’s pain medication.

Buy some spiral notebooks and start copying the Bible. It worked for Doris.

Haaka Taaka Christmas

Since the discovery of Taaka Vodka at The Purity, Gary, Wilson, Little Mister, and I have created a new Christmas tradition. It’s a game called “Where’s Taaka?” We take turns hiding and searching for the Taaka bottle among the holiday decorations.

Little Mister gets so excited that he has to be sedated.


In the spirit of holiday generosity, I invite you to play along.(Warning: The game gets progressively more challenging when Taaka dons a disguise)

040508DSC_0019DSC_0010DSC_0008DSC_0014DSC_0005Some might ask what they can expect to receive if they discover all the Taaka locations.


Happy Holidays!

Natural Born Killer

Harrison, our son, was home for the weekend. Toward the end of his visit, he took me to the edge of the back porch and pointed to the right. “See those gray blobs?”

They looked like small cow pies.

“Notice the tails?”

They weren’t cow pies. They were decomposed rats.

I rushed into the house to confront the sack of fur curled up in the living room.

“Why?” I pleaded. “Why have you become a rat serial killer? And why do you insist on bringing the corpses home?”

The cat slowly raised his head and squinted. Now, Kate—.

I stood my ground, refusing to break eye contact.

You used to think I was a girl.

Harrison brought the cat home in 2004, the summer before he left for college. He was told by the litter’s owner that the kitten was a girl. I did not know how one goes about sexing a fluffy kitten, and didn’t care. I had a full time job, three other cats (yes, three), a kid in high school, another getting ready for college, and a host of better things—like laundry—to do.

Gary and I wanted to name her Harrison’s Parting Gift, but our daughter, Laine, chose Lily. I referred to her as Little Sister as she fought her way into the established hierarchy of the older cats.

After dropping her at the vet to be spayed and discovering she actually had to be neutered, Little Sister morphed into Little Mister.

He’s not an overly affectionate cat. He will never sit on your lap. He’ll stand on it (or your chest if you’re lying down) and ask to be petted. He’ll insist on a round of pets whenever he gets up from his day-long nap. He does cuddle in bed at night—at least until one o’clock in the morning when he wants to go out and at three o’clock when he wants to come in until five o’clock when he wants to go out again.

If you show too much interest, he’ll dust you off like a hung over A-list movie star ignoring an autograph seeker.

From the time Little Mister was teensy, I sensed a feral quality about him and insisted he sit in my lap and endure petting whenever he was fed. Without that training I don’t think he’d be as domesticated as he is today.

Over the years, he’s dragged home smatterings of torn up critters, usually of the mole or mouse variety. But this past month, he’s become rat obsessed. He’s presented us with at least 10 of them. He leaves them in the Easter lily bed to the right of the back porch—an area we now refer to as Rat Hollow.

The first several rats sent my goose flesh flaring as I donned rubber gloves to grab their tails and drop them into a plastic bag for garbage can burial. Since then, my traumatized brain will not allow me to look at Rat Hallow. Thus, the last three decomposed to the consistency of cow pies.

Laine, our family cat expert, says that Little Mister’s recent bountiful gifts of rat corpses are signs of gratitude—he likes us and wants to make sure we’re well fed.

I have a difficult time believing that he gives one hoot about us. I think he hypnotizes me into feeling deep affection towards him. He draws me in by allowing a petting session. He’ll lick my hand and rub his head along it multiple times before jumping to the floor, which leaves me feeling used. I’m pretty sure he could suck out my soul as I lie sleeping.

Laine says some cats are just plain killers. They hunt not for food or for sharing with their owners. They kill for the thrill. This seems in line with Little Mister’s recently completed personality profile on The Big Five Personality Test. He got high marks for being closed minded, disagreeable, and high strung. He failed miserably at being conscientious.

Uh-oh, he just hopped on my desk and is reading this.

You only weigh 13 pounds. I’m not afraid of you.

You should be. (He’s thumping his tail.)

Let me give you a pet, my sweetheart. You know I love you.

Of course you do. If you didn’t, I’d steal your soul.