I’m not sure if this blog has ever acknowledged how close the emotions attached to raising a pet are to raising children, even though I would venture a guess that there are just as many academics with pets as kids. Universities do, in fact, offer insurance for animals (even before domestic partner benefits), and a $7.6 million donation  was recently made in a cat’s name to UC Davis’s School of Veterinary Medicine, but it doesn’t seem politically correct for pet owners to insist that their animals are loved and return affection every bit as much as human dependents. As someone who has raised both, though, I think I can safely say that my cat seems to love me with more dependability than my teenagers.
I was fairly certain of the automatic affection of cats for humans until my partner and I tried to adopt a second cat recently. Sabra, a close Chicago friend, recently got engaged to a University of Edinburgh robotics researcher. When she announced her pending nuptials, she also announced — with great sadness — that her 12 year-old cat, Mr. Pants, would not make the move with her to Scotland and needed a new family. Without thinking about it (nor speaking with my partner), I immediately offered our home.
Mr. Pants is a beautiful red Maine coon who is blind in one eye and was adopted from a shelter as a kitten. He lived with Sabra in her one-bedroom apartment for his entire life and was the sole object of her affection. Mr. Pants would venture out into the hallway and commune with cats at the end of the hall but primarily stayed inside, close to home and his exotic multilevel scratching tower. Sabra--an experienced traveler who has won awards for her photographs of animals in the streets of Cuba--could barely brave forcing Mr. Pants into his carrier and dropping him off at our spacious, 3 level house.
Let’s just say that the transition has not been an easy one. As a college researcher you would think that I would bother to at least Google strategies for how to adopt a second cat into a home where one cat already lives, but I stupidly thought, “I’ve raised two kids, this should be easy…” No research was accomplished.
Mr. Pants has not been easy. He clearly misses Sabra and stays in the basement under a mattress — except when Sabra came over during our trial period, when he would stay close to her. Now that Sabra has gone overseas, we have barely been able to coax Mr. Pants out from under the bed, much less upstairs to where the humans and our other cat, the gregarious Salem, hang out.
A ‘cat’ friend of mine suggested that patience will be the biggest virtue with Mr. Pants, and not to try and rush him into new parts of the house. Mr. Pants made me happy recently when he let me pet him while eating a treat in his bedroom, but I haven't been able to coax him out of the doorway. For now—Mr. Pants lives in the basement, and the rest of the family is upstairs.
Any suggestions for adding a second pet are greatly appreciated!