A catty exchange
by KR JOHNSON | San Diego Pets
02:17 PM, Friday, July 01
As one who has had the privilege of living with cats since I can remember, I can tell you, most of the time there is a major adjustment period when bringing in a new cat.
I have only once had a no-fuss experience. I had a white domestic short-hair named Sam, who liked to sleep on his back under the coffee table. One day, I opened my door to find a lovely little orange tabby Manx sitting on my porch. She casually strolled in, jumped on the couch, and settled in. I got the message: “I’ve adopted you, you lucky human.”
Now, you’d think Sam would react, and he did. He opened his eyes, looked at Squeaky, blinked and went back to his nap. That was it. Case closed.
I wish it were always that easy.
Sometimes, bringing a new cat into a home with a cat that has already established its presence results in Big Feline Drama, as in the case of newcomer Lily and old-timer Max. Lily wanted to sniff and explore to familiarize herself with the new surroundings and watched Max with wide eyes and pricked-forward ears. The tail was not twitching. This was Lily’s way of showing nonaggressive behavior. She was saying, “Hi. I’m Lily. Can we be friends?”
Max, meanwhile, locked his eyes on Lily and did that frozen-but-ready-to-flee thing cats do when confronted by anything out of the routine. Max’s eyes, locked on Lily, communicated a clear message: “I do not trust you.”
Will Max whip his tail and flatten his ears? If so, it’s time to scoop Lily up and isolate her before Max attacks. Max is warning Lily to not come too close. And if Max is really threatened, he may let out that blood-curdling scream that only cats can make. Ignore that sound at your peril!
But luckily, Max accepted Lily, demonstrating it by looking away from her and casually licking a paw, as if to say, “Oh, you’re here? Whatever. You’re no threat to me.” This is good news to Lily, who would never have felt truly welcome until she gained Max’s approval, and very good news to the people of the house, who know that the peace in their home is in direct proportion to Max’s happiness level.

About KR Johnson
KR Johnson believes wholeheartedly in joy and laughter as a critical element of any learning or healing process and is excited to be an instrument for joy in the world. She is an award-winning speaker, a longtime educator and advocate for kids, an improvisational theater performer and founding member of The Ladybugs–an interactive improv troupe for kids big and small. She is the author of The Eleventh Sense, the journey of 11-year-old Simon, who must find his mother’s killer with the help of the most unusual (and annoying) bunch of friends ever.
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