Charlie has wanted a cat for as long as we can remember, although we have never been sure why, since he’s barely been around cats. But it’s been a consistent request, so with his birthday coming up, we thought perhaps the time was right. Koskie is almost 13, and while he’s really healthy other than some arthritis in his hips, we know he won’t be around forever. And since I can’t fathom not having an animal in the house… happy birthday to Charlie!
I know nothing about cats, so I got advice from all of our cat-loving friends. We had the perception that cats can be aloof and just hide all the time, which was not what we wanted. Besides that we felt better about rescuing an adult cat that might otherwise have trouble finding a home, we were told that kittens can be unpredictable – even if you raise them from a young age, they may still turn out to be hiders. So we settled on finding the right adult cat for our family.
A friend recommended an organization called Secondhand Hounds, which rescues animals and places them in foster homes until they can be adopted. The website indicates if the cat is kid and dog-friendly, and since they spend time with the fosters before they are adoptable, the foster parents can provide a lot of good information about their personalities. So after some browsing, and with some guidance from the people at Secondhand Hounds, we picked a few to apply for, and eventually got to meet “Baby.” (“Darren” got adopted before we could meet him.)
Baby was being fostered by a college student, after being rescued from a reservation somewhere in North Dakota. She was currently living with an elderly basset hound, but had also spent significant time with a young golden retriever – and they got along well, even played together. So we were hopeful she’d adjust well to Koskie. The question was how she’d do with the kids…
When we met Baby, it didn’t turn out as well as we’d hoped. All the information from the foster mom (Shelby) indicated that Baby was friendly and playful, even with new people, and didn’t hide at all when she first moved in with Shelby, etc. But that morning, Shelby began fostering a second cat, and apparently the meeting of the two cats did not go well. So when we arrived, Baby was hiding not just under the couch, but in it, finding her way through a hole in the lining covering the bottom! And with the bully cat, as Shelby called it, meowing away in a nearby kennel, Baby was not coming out any time soon.
Shelby locked the bully in another room and enticed Baby out. She was definitely still nervous, but eventually played a little bit with a feather with us. We were encouraged by the fact that when we held her, even though she clearly wanted to get away, her claws never came out. We had a good conversation with Shelby, with her emphasizing that this was not normal behavior for Baby, and headed home. The next step – we had to decide if Baby was the right cat for us, and Shelby had to decide if we were a good fit for Baby – she was meeting another family the next day.
Long story short – we decided to trust the information from Shelby, and hope that Baby wouldn’t just hide from us constantly! And fortunately, Shelby chose us too. But that was not the end of the story… we also had to pass a home visit! That turned out to be a friendly retiree who volunteers with Secondhand Hounds out of pure love for animals – we had a nice chat as she glanced around our house. After some paperwork and vet checks, we headed out on a Friday night to pick Baby up.
Wait… Baby? What kind of name is that?!?!? We suspect she was named Baby by the SHH volunteers because she’s so small – she only weighs about 7 lbs. She’s somewhere between 5 and 7 years old, so that’s as big as she’ll get. But since being called a baby is an insult in this house, we had to come up with a new name. And you would not believe how long that conversation went on. We started looooong before we picked Baby up, and she still did not have an official name until I forced a decision on Sunday night!
I don’t know that I can even remember all the names we considered, but here’s my best effort: Big Kat, Karl, Yoda, Leia, Callie, Carly, Moose, Anna, Meow-meow, Purr-purr (you can guess who suggested those), Alf (you can also probably guess who liked that one), Cici – which started as CC for “Charlie’s cat”… There were more. Oh well. We discussed them endlessly; every time we seemed close to a decision someone would throw out more suggestions. So why Karl, you ask? For a female cat? Well, never underestimate Scott’s influence on the boys. There is a Timberwolves player named Karl Anthony Towns, and according to Scott, his nickname is Big KAT. So we started with his suggestion of “Big Kat” being our cat’s name, which evolved into Karl. And Karl was the only name that no one hated… so meet our female cat Karl!
When we brought Karl home, we put Koskie outside, and I let her out of the carrier near her litter box, located by a bathroom. Straight out of the carrier and into the bathroom she went, hiding behind the toilet. Our friend Jenny had told me their newest cat hid for two weeks, so I wasn’t terribly surprised. Scott and the boys headed outside to play, but mostly to get the noise and energy out of the house so the cat might relax a little! The photo at the top is from that first hour she was home – when I sat on the floor near the bathroom, she came out to greet me, purring away. But any sort of noise or movement – back behind the toilet!
Eventuallly the boys came in and went to bed; we just left Karl alone to get comfortable. About an hour after the boys went to bed, two hours since she arrived, she came wandering out. Still very cautious, but ready to explore. We took that as a good sign!
Every day got better, as far as her hiding. She never did go back to that toilet, preferring to hide under our bed. It got to the point that she’d come out whenever the boys weren’t around, friendly as can be, purring much louder than I thought was possible. And eventually, she stopped hiding entirely, even when the boys are at their wildest! Don’t get me wrong, she might run off when something startles her, but she just goes into another room, eventually returning when she thinks the craziness has calmed down. And at night, if I lay down with Charlie to read books in bed before he goes to sleep, she hops up and joins us, snuggling in. The first night it happened I think Charlie was in heaven!
Her exploring got very interesting one night… I had heard her messing around with the bag of dog food hidden behind the laundry hamper (most of Koskie’s food is in a plastic container, but this was the stuff that didn’t fit), but didn’t really think much of it. Until the morning I got up and found both the laundry hamper AND the bag of dog food pushed out of their spots under the counter, with the bag ripped open! I had no idea that tiny little animal could shove that stuff around like that – she’s stronger than she looks! She didn’t eat any of the food… maybe she was just trying to help Koskie out?
Speaking of Koskie, you may wonder how he’s handling this. We weren’t worried; Koskie is a pretty laid-back, gentle guy, and had stayed with friends who had cats recently, so we knew he wouldn’t try to hurt her or anything. Honestly, I thought he’d love having a buddy around! The reality has been quite hilarious. Karl was pretty cautious at first, but that first full day she was here she tried to walk up to a laying-down Koskie and rub her head on his chin. He jumped about 2 feet in the air, he was so startled! She hasn’t given up; I still see her trying to rub up against him, but he’s still a little bit confused by it all. I don’t think it’ll be long before they’re snuggling. :)
To summarize a very long story, Karl has been here for a little more than 2 weeks, and she fits right in. She loves nothing more than sitting in the windows, staring intently at those pesky robins. Her feather stick is definitely her a favorite toy, but she also loooooves playing with any sort of ball. She is very much in the right house – we have balls everywhere!! She gets very playful at about 9:30 PM and 6:30 AM; we’ll start hearing all sorts of thumps and bumps as she races around, either batting a ball around the room or tearing up and down the stairs in some sort of game only she understands. And if you’re sitting down, particularly under our favorite afghan, you can expect her in your lap, purring and kneading.
Happy birthday Charliebug. :)