I asked subscribers in the February 2010 Mewsletter for their stories on introducing their cats and dogs to one another. Bernadette Barnett, who lives in Canberra, Australia, wrote the following:

Bernadette_with_a_necklace-of_kittens My own experience was that I already had a 12-month old Kelpie dog that had never met a cat when I brought my first two kittens (Gorman and Mister) home.  I bought a guinea pig cage and set it up in the family room and when Lady was running free inside I put the kittens in the cage.  This way Lady was able to investigate them without being able to “get at” them.  Then I would attach one end of a lead to Lady’s collar, and the other end to a belt around my waist, and let the kittens roam free.  Lady was reasonably well trained before the kittens arrived and responded well to the sit, stay, drop, and especially the “leave it” commands.  It didn’t take long before they were used to each other and I was able to get rid of the guinea pig cage (much to my family’s relief!) and let them mingle.  I did not leave them alone in a room until I was sure that they all could cope.


Mister had been with us only 6 weeks when I noticed that he was sitting facing the wall on the top of the cats’ play house and when I picked him up I could see that his abdomen was very swollen, and hot to the touch.  The vet diagnosed feline intestinal peritonitis – as you would know, this is incurable and, rather than subject the little fellow to a possibly painful decline, he was euthanized.  I’m sure you have heard that cats leave footprints on your heart – Mister certainly did – he was such a little character.  On my way back from the vet I called in to see Lorraine (at the RSPCA shelter, Canberra), and asked her to keep an eye out for another kitten about Gorman’s age – 4 months.  As it happened, a Persian had been surrendered that very morning.  A distraught Mum had brought it in.  A friend had given it to her 2 year-old son.  The last thing she needed was a kitten.  The child pursued it day and night and when I went up to the Cattery to see it, it smelled strongly of Vegemite and butter.  Apparently the Mum had spent ages looking for the kitten that morning, and had finally found it stuffed into the back pack that the child had been marching around with all morning! 

As you can imagine, after a few weeks of terror Trixie was very shy.  I fell in love with her immediately and, apart from retreating into the area between the legs of the dining room seating for several weeks every time there was a loud noise, she settled well into our home.  Gorman loved her on sight and they became – and are still – the best of friends.

The next addition to the family was Maggie Mae – an adorable tortoiseshell who is the perfect mixture of Gorman’s black and Trixie’s red.  She was followed by Manon, then Catie.  I was determined not to adopt any more cats and fostered kittens for a while – and, although it was hard to part with them when the time came, they all went back to the Shelter and then to other homes.

THEN I FOSTERED DOLLY – she was so little, and so sick, AND SO LOUD, that there was really no way she was ever going back once she recovered.  She stole our hearts completely and we worked so hard to keep her alive.  As a result of her illness she is completely deaf and, I am sure, would sleep through an earthquake.  Looking at her and Maggie together, you would swear they were Mother and Daughter.  She, Maggie and Gorman are a sort of a little family group and the three of them can often be found hanging out together in the cat run.  Dolly is about 4 years old now, but is still our “kitten”.  She can be a bit of a thug – although Gorman and Maggie look after her and often groom her, I think she is more that capable of standing up for herself – she certainly has Harry well and truly bluffed!

Harry was my last “foster”.  I was working at the Shelter full time when he arrived – a more sorry sight you could not imagine.  He was left in the Drop Off Kennels – either by someone who found him, or by owners who could no longer keep him – we will never know.  He was completely matted – so much so that the fur was lifting off his skin and the skin was covered in crusty lesions.  The vet at the Shelter estimated him to be about 3 years old, an entire male, Persian pure breed, who was underweight and VERY timid.  He had to be anaesthetised to have his coat clipped and they neutered him while he was under. 

There was no “lost” notice on the books and we figured no one was going to come looking for him!  When he woke up he retired into the back of the cage and refused to come out, even to eat and drink.  I took to going up to the Clinic to sit with him during my breaks, and gradually he came out to take some food from me.  I brought him home to “foster” until a home could be found for him.  After some initial resentment from the rest of the menagerie – particularly from Dolly – he settled down and started eating, and eating, and eating, and eating.  I did not think he was ever going to stop!  He has doubled his weight in 18 months – he was very underweight – but I hope he doesn’t keep putting weight on!  His eating has settled down, but he still becomes agitated if he is too far away from a food bowl! 

Unfortunately, the vets at the Shelter did not spot that the lesions he had were actually ringworm – so all but Manon caught that too!  Can you imagine the fun of having to medicate SEVEN cats, twice a day????  Once he was well again, he was part of the family and wasn’t going anywhere.  It’s really funny, but he does not even go out in the cat run from choice.  I sometimes take him up to the back fence, but he’s inside the house again before I am!  I figure he thinks “I’ve been out there, Mate, and it’s horrible – and I’ve got no intention of ever risking being out there on my own again.  Besides – where’s lunch?”

trixie_maggie_gorman_lady_deux_on_towerI am no longer working at the Shelter so have not added any live cats to the menagerie for two years now.  However, I do collect ornamental cats, cat jewellery and cat post cards!  To think, I wasn’t a “cat person” nine years ago – I have always loved animals, but was very allergic to cats.  We had a cat when my son (now 46!) was very young, but it was killed on the road in front of our house when he was about 9.  I said I would never get another one because of my allergy, and because I couldn’t face that again.

When I had to go out to the Theatre where my daughter was working to rescue two litters of kittens I decided I just had to do something about giving a couple of them a home.  I built a cat run – which was extended considerably as the family grew – and took anti-histamine tablets twice a day for four years.  At the end of that time I decided to see how I went without the medication, and haven’t had a sniffle or runny eye since!  My previously-mentioned friend, Lorraine, is a firm believer that children are often “allergic” to animals because they are not exposed to them – and I am sure that was my problem too.  Once I had cats around, and with the help of medication for a while, I became de-sensitised.

 You asked how the other animals dealt with Rune’s death.  Lady did not eat properly for over three weeks and Gorman, who had becomegorman_and_rune particularly affectionate to Rune as she aged, definitely looked for her.  Trixie is not well at the moment, and I brought the sheepskin that Rune used to sleep on in from the garage yesterday.  When Gorman saw me put it on the floor, his behaviour was quite strange.  He burrowed under it and sniffed it all over.  It is 5 months since Rune died, and the sheepskin has been washed and dried in the sun, it must still have her scent on it.  Trixie would not go on it at all until I spread another thin quilt over it, and then she was quite happy to spend the morning lying on it in the sun at the front window.

Bernadette Barnett (Canberra, Australia) 


One Cat is Company

"One cat is company.
Two cats are a conspiracy. 
Three cats is an attempted takeover.
Four or more cats is a complete coup!"

Shona Steele (Australia)

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