So I named the blog Muddy Poodles, and yet my first really long post here is not going to be about dogs, but rather, the cats. Xena and Pippin.
How Did I End Up with Cats?
I never used to be a cat person. Growing up, we always had dogs. I remember my dad commenting that he didn’t like cats because they “jump up on the stove and lick the butter.” I thought this was a little silly at the time since we didn’t keep the butter out on the stove where it could be licked, but I think he really just didn’t like the independence of cats and the fact that you really can’t train cats.
When I was with my ex-partner Laura, I somehow became the owner of two cats: Pippin and Xena.
We got Xena back in 1997 when we lived in Oak Brook, Illinois. She is a full siamese. From the time she was a kitten, she often seemed more “dog-like” than cat-like. She wasn’t much into jumping up on things or climbing.
Pippin came along after we were living in Montana. He is some sort of random domestic short-hair mix. He came from one of Laura’s co-workers when their cat unexpectedly had kittens, so we had no idea who his parents were. He was, unlike his sister, completely cat-like, which was a bit of a surprise to me since I was used to Xena and her non-cat ways. He climbed and jumped. He loved climbing on the little cat-tree we got him. He quickly learned how to jump up on the countertops. I’ve no doubt that he would have happily licked the butter if we had left it out on the stove.
He was also the devil cat from day one. He chewed up my dining room chairs. Once, I came downstairs and found my cell phone with the charger cord dangling out of it like a little, frayed tail. The other end of the charger was still plugged into the wall. Glad he didn’t electrocute himself while chomping through the plugged-in charger.
I think Pippin was never meant to be an indoor-only cat. He just got too bored being cooped up all the time.
At Renee’s House
Fast forward a few years. Laura and I had broken up, I was now with Renee, and we decided to move in together after about a year. This presented a bit of a problem with the cats. Between the two of us we had (at the time we moved in) five dogs. Three of which were standard poodles. Sirus (the cream poodle) saw cats as prey and chased them whenever she had the chance at my house. So combining households was going to be challenging.
Our solution was to set up the shed in the backyard to be a home for the cats. It wasn’t perfect or ideal, but it mostly worked. We cleared out the various gardening tools and things, moved in a big pet crate with a big fluffy comforter, and tried to make it as comfortable for them as we could.
This solution worked, but had some definite drawbacks. It didn’t have a good solid door, so we tacked up some heavy plastic for the winter and got a small heater for them. This kept the chill out of the room, but significantly jacked up our electric bill. We also got some bales of straw to provide shelter from the cold, but the cats did not really like feeling as though they lived in a barn.
On the other hand, there were several good things about this solution. Pippin loved having full access to the outdoors. Once he got over his initial anxiety about being moved, he started exploring the backyard. We have a tall fence and as far as I know, he has never managed to escape into the greater outdoors. But the backyard has become his personal kingdom.
He loves to watch birds in the trees. I don’t think he’ll ever catch one (they have become smart), but he stalks them. It is pretty funny to see him, as he makes an odd little chittering sound when he watches them. He does the same thing with squirrels. He’s as interested in watch the squirrels as the dogs. In fact, I think that may have helped him and the dogs learn to get along since they actually have something in common with each other.
Speaking of the dogs, the turn-around has been amazing. We keep an eye on Sirus because she sometimes still regards him as prey. But he is no longer afraid of the dogs. He stands his ground when he is out and just refuses to BE chased anymore. It is great to see him strutting around the yard, even when the dogs are out and about, with no signs of fear. The dogs have learned to respect him and mostly leave him alone.
Xena has also adjusted to her new home. She doesn’t enjoy the outdoor access quite as much as her brother, but over the summer she did sometimes come out and lounge on the pool deck in the sun.
Still, we clearly needed to do something to solve the drawbacks mentioned above…
To be continued in The Great Cat Room Remodel: Part II.