Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pets Add Life: The Power of Three

Growing up, we always had one pet in the house. A dog. So when I suddenly became a cat lady in my teens, it surprised many people, especially my Dad, who while an animal-lover, didn't particularly like cats.

When I adopted Priscilla ten years ago while still living at home, he was less than thrilled at the prospect of this tiny kitten taking over our house. To make matters worse, we also had a dog named Teddy at the time, who had barely met a cat in his life, and certainly wasn't going to tolerate one taking over his territory either.

Holding Baby Priscilla, while Teddy proudly watches on

The first few days of Priscilla's arrival were tumultuous; Teddy barked for something like 24-hours straight (ok, he stopped to sleep and eat), even when she was out of sight and safely sequestered in another room. I barely knew anything about cats at the time, and was terrified to bring them together. I remember worrying about what he would do to her, but looking back, it seems like my biggest concern should have been, what would SHE do to him?

Teddy was a small dog, a Papillon, and for as long as I live, I'll never forget the first supervised exchange between the two. Priscilla hid behind the couch, as Teddy ran back and forth from side to side, anxiously anticipating a sighting of this little creature that had just turned his world upside down.

Suddenly, he stopped pacing for a minute, and sat down, confidently waiting for her to emerge. Just then, this little black ball of fuzz popped out from the other end of the couch, and stealthily crept up behind him, just so she could give him a good *WAP* on the back. Teddy stood idly in shock, as feisty little Prissy fled back in the other direction from whence she came.

It was a hilarious site to see, and at that moment I knew that having two pets was infinitely better than having one. Together they were a constant source of endless amusement, and when they were around, you knew hijinks would ensue.

Priscilla and Teddy, just close enough

As Priscilla grew older (and Teddy finally stopped barking), they still remained wary of each other, but didn't mind hanging out, and one could always rely on the other for a good game of "chase." They would sleep near each other - not touching, of course, always at least a few inches apart, but I think it was nice for the other one to know that they were there.

They were both fiercely jealous, especially Teddy, for the attention of my Mom, and barking and hissing were a near daily occurrence at our house, but so was laughter from watching the two of them interact. Of course the other footnote of this story is that within a short time, Priscilla turned my Dad, the cat hater, into the biggest cat loving guy on the planet, and I would often find them napping together, her purring contentedly by his side.

Charlie on his last day outdoors before we brought him in to live with us

Charlie came into our lives about five years after Priscilla, so for a time before I moved out, there were three pets in the house. I always see pictures online of people's pets cuddling together, and I have to admit that's was not the way it was for our family. Surprisingly, it was actually Priscilla who reacted the worst to the introduction of another cat (to this day, she still sometimes acts like she's never seen Charlie before in her life), but they eventually all learned to coexist peacefully, and I would always smile when I saw them napping together in a triptych, always close, but still not too close.

The triptych (from L to R) - Priscilla, Charlie, Teddy

Sadly, Teddy passed away suddenly two years ago at the age of almost-fourteen, and I think Charlie and Priscilla each felt the loss in their own way. I must say it was also a great comfort to my family to have the two of them around, and while they could not replace Teddy in our hearts, their constant companionship and soft purrs certainly helped soften the blow.

Priscilla celebrating her 10th birthday in April of this year

Of course, there are lots of other reasons having more than one pet is a good thing. There's the scientific reasons, like how studies show that pet ownership can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and decrease your chances of getting heart disease. And there's also the serendipitous ones too, like having an extra furry body can reduce energy costs by warming your toes in the winter. There's also my favorite (and most selfish) reason of all, and that's if one cat isn't in the mood to cuddle or take pictures for your latest blog post (hehe), you always have a spare around to pick up the slack.

I am proud to be a part of the Pets Add Life (PAL) campaign, and to talk about how having Teddy, Priscilla, and Charlie have enriched my life. PAL is a national, non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting the positive roles pets play in the health and well being of people, families and communities. If you are able, I encourage you to think about adding another furry family member to your home, so you too can experience the joys of multiple pet ownership for yourself.

This post is sponsored by the Pets Add Life campaign and the American Pet Products Association. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about the benefits and joys of pet ownership.

It's your daily reminder to vote Catsparella today for Best Social Integration Blog at the 2011 Petties Awards! If I win, I'll donate the $1,000 prize to Tabby's Place Cat Sanctuary! You can vote every day, twice a day, through July 29th!

Visit to vote, and please help spread the word!



cate said...

Such a wonderful story and I know that having two cats is so much better than one, for both you and the cat! We are at the moment considering fostering as well, but not sure I can take the pain of handing them on :) The Pets Add Life Campaign sounds great, I think I'll pay them a visit -thank you!

Alyssa S said...

I love that story! It reminds me of my best friend. I've known her since we were 6 or 7 and she has always hated cats and I've always had cats in the house and loved them. Her and her mom would yell at stray cats around their yards for as long as I can remember. We are in college now living together and a couple years back we found a litter of kittens yapping away outside our door by a shed while it was rainy and cold so we took them all in. We found homes for all but 2 and we kept them. She absolutely LOVES cats now. It's pretty amazing. Her family dog just passed away a couple months ago, and the cat was really comforting for her mom during that hard time. The kitty had sleepovers back at home to comfort her everyone that had just lost of a part of their family, or so it seemed since they were all so close to the dog. Wow long comment, nice post, I enjoyed it!


Catsparella said...

Thank you for your kind words Cate and Alyssa!! ♥

Anonymous said...

From a cat's perspective I found Priscilla's reaction to Charlie as an interloper, to be the norm. Of the two sexes, the female is the most territorial...think about it from their viewpoint...the gals have smaller territories in which they sequester their kittens and hunt for the family groceries. The boys roam over a much larger area--just passing through searching for an opportunity to mate. Females have to guard their hunting grounds and protect their kittens. Once a female kitten has reached social maturity, she is loath to tolerate another cat into her 'territory.'

While there are always exceptions, adopting cats in pairs, or bringing your new kitten home before your girl is mature, is the best way to insure acceptance.

Catsparella said...

@Anon Very good point, thank you. I will say Charlie was a bit of an "accident." We weren't planning on getting another cat at the time, but he literally just walked right into our lives!

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