When a feline companion of eighteen years left us last May, I knew that at some point I would want to adopt another cat. Our resident cat, Jasmine, now ten years old, came to us at age two when her first family moved to New Zealand. She and Oscar became friends – he was ten at the time – and although they were never buddies, they did tolerate each other to the extent that they sometimes even sat on the bed together.
Jasmine adapted well to being on her on, especially because the pandemic has resulted in my being home almost all the time. However, as things began to open, it became apparent that she would be home alone for some stretches of time, and I was worried about that for her. She had always been with other animals.
We decided to adopt a younger cat in hopes that they would become playmates. Alas – best-laid plans – when we went to the cat rescue to choose a cat, we were chosen – by a nine-year-old female named Kara. She was a greeter – she was seated in a small box on a table right next to the door as we came in, and she was friendly right away. We looked around, and we spent time with several of the younger cats (there were twenty-five cats roaming around) – but the one we thought we had come for turned out to be “playful” in a bit of a rough way. My husband wanted none of that – and Kara was our choice.
In adopting an older, female cat and attempting to integrate her into our home with an even-older female cat, we were embarking of a journey that would require patience!
So began the Saga of Jasmine and Kara, a continuing story told in weekly installments to an avid audience of friends. Following the instructions gleaned from our cat whisperer friend and from Jackson Galaxy YouTube videos, we began by not even allowing the two cats to see each other. Kara was whisked into the house and placed in a secure room with her own box, food bowls, toys and water. This happened to be the room in which we watch TV, so she would be sure of company in the evening. The next steps were to exchange scents – rub old socks or t-shirts on each cat and put those objects in the other cat’s areas. Next we moved Kara into another room for a bit and let Jasmine into the TV room to sniff around. We did this repeatedly.
The next step was crucial – we put up baby gates at one of the entrances to the TV room and began to crack the door open when both cats were eating – thus creating an association with “seeing other cat equals getting food”. We quickly learned that Kara is an agile escape artist who could climb right over those gates! However, they did serve the purpose of allowing visual contact if they were monitored. I also learned that as soon as Jasmine saw Kara that I needed to pet her (the resident cat!), reassure her that this interloper did not mean she had lost us, and play with her using her favorite toy, a fishing pole with feathers attached.
This journey began in September. We are now at the point at which both Jasmine and Kara are out and about in the house during the day. Jasmine is the dominant cat – a Maine Coon mix weighing in at twelve pounds; however, Kara, a long-haired black tabby with Maine Coon features as well, and weighing about eight pounds, is a little acrobat and very interested in joining with and playing with Jasmine.
This has not yet occurred, but I would say that the possibility exists that they could end up on a bed together. It has taken patience, time, and determination – some would say why work so hard? In part it is because we were chosen – but also it is within our ability to provide a safe and loving home to an older cat – and the rewards of that choice are many. We love them both, quirks and all, and I have hope that the patience we are all displaying will be rewarded.
Patience is an old-fashioned virtue – in our fast-paced and throw-away society, we are not used to delaying gratification or waiting for things to unfold. Jasmine and Kara are teaching us time-honored truths by showing us that it takes time to adapt, to trust, and to create new connections. It will not be rushed – it takes the time it takes – a timely reminder that even fear and conflict can be mitigated by patience and a good meal!
About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 35+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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