By Alyce Wilson
November 2, 2005 - Welcome Home, Luke
On Sunday, the long awaited day arrived. The Gryphon and I picked up our new kitty, Luke, from his foster home. For the first five months of his life, he's been cared for by a very doting foster mother, who is a real cat person and who has been extremely careful with him. In fact, when we picked him up, he smelled like baby powder from a special deodorant for cats.
She gave us a CD of pictures of him dating back to his kitten days.
The pictures are adorable and show him with his two litter mates, Hans and Leigh, named after the Star Wars movies. In this picture, he's in the front, Leigh is in the middle and Hans is in the back.
Luke got in our cat carrier quite easily. He's used to cat carriers, having made many visits to the vet over the past several months. We took our time leaving, because I wanted the foster mother to be able to say good-bye. I promised her I'd contact her if I had any questions and would keep her updated on how things are going.
When we got home, I took my dog, Una, for a walk while The Gryphon got Luke settled in the bedroom. We'd set up all his cat things in there so he could get comfortable with the new situation before having to deal with Una. We set up his cat bed, food, a soft throw I got for him, water dish, litter box, toys, and a scratching post.
The Gryphon said he would leave the door of the cat carrier open and just let him get used to it in his own time. He said we should leave the cat carrier in the room for now so he has a place to retreat if he wants to.
By the time I came back, Luke was taking his first tentative steps out of the cat carrier. We put up a baby gate we'd bought on the way home with him, but it was too small. When I climbed over it, my dog, Una, followed me, leaping neatly over it. So I offered to go get a bigger baby gate. I left The Gryphon with Luke, making him comfortable.
I drove to the local Babies R Us and bought a baby gate that was a good nine inches taller than the other one had been. When we installed it, we saw it was a much better height.
For the most part, the first day we kept the bedroom door closed, since the baby gate fits in the door in such a way that you can still shut it. We wanted Luke to have a nice, quiet place where he could feel secure. We would come in occasionally and pet him and play with him, check on his needs.
At night, we knew we couldn't have the dog in there. She always sleeps in the bedroom with us. The obvious answer was that I would sleep in the guest room with the dog and The Gryphon would sleep in the bedroom with the kitty.
So far, The Gryphon has informed me that Luke enjoys pouncing on feet, eating his food and playing with his toys late at night.
Since I'm a telecommuter, working in a home office, I can see from my desk into the bedroom doorway. So when I'm there, I leave the bedroom door open, and the baby gate allows the cat and the dog to get used to each other in a non-threatening way.
We've been encouraging Una to say hello to Luke, but she has to lie down at the gate and be calm. She's been doing that. Una has met many other cats before, and I always had her lie down and be calm and let the cat come to her. She's always been nice to cats, so this was all about Luke's comfort zone.
I took it as a good sign that he soon decided his favorite places in the room were on Una's collection of toys and on her dog bed.
He's gradually becoming used to her. At first, he would sit on the bed with a curious look on his face as he examined her from a safe distance. But he didn't take any defensive postures, such as putting his back up or hissing.
Then he started venturing closer. Realizing the gate was there made him feel safer, but just for safety's sake, he'd sneak behind the door and peek out at Una through the crack where he knew he was safe.
They've actually been getting to the point where they will sit on opposite sides of the gate, looking at each other calmly. Luke occasionally tries to reach out his paw to touch her, but not to bat at her, it seems. I took a couple pictures the other day when they were doing this.
Last night, I was in the bedroom getting ready for bed, talking to Luke, and Una was sitting calmly outside the gate. As I was talking nice to both of them, Luke ventured up to the gate and brushed his head against the place where Una was sitting. She bent down and gently licked his nose! I praised her for being good. Luke rubbed his head against the gate some more, seeming to approve of the contact, and then turned around and came back towards me.
We think that tonight will be a good night to let them meet face to face. We'll put Una on a leash and make her lie down and be calm, allowing Luke to come up to her. For at least tonight, though, we'll still sleep in separate rooms so the animals have their own space at night.
I made good on my promise and contacted the foster mom to let her know how things are going. I sent her a link to an online photo album where I put pictures of Luke. She wrote back to thank me and to say that it made her feel better to see him happy in his new environment. I'm glad, because I could see she really cared about him and it was hard to let him go.
But she knows that every cat she finds a home for leaves space for another needy cat to get some care. She does this so much that by now she must be used to it. I think it's hardest, though, when they're brought to her as kittens and she watches them grow up.
I'm getting to know Luke better, I understand why he was so hard to let
go. He's a very sweet kitty, and I think he and my sweet dog, Una, will
get along fine. Una,
however, might have to start sleeping on the cat bed.
2005 by Alyce Wilson