Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How to introduce a new cat to existing cat(s). (Or “You may now call me a cat lady!”)

Two weeks ago I stopped by Homeward Pet to donate a cat bed – because, you know, even though we spend a small fortune on exquisite cat beds, they actually prefer BOXES.

Duh.

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(Oh, sweet, sweet Boo. May he rest in peace. Sniff.)

As I turned to walk out the door, I found myself asking whether I could “just take a peek” at the binder containing photos of cats currently up for adoption. It’s almost as if someone else spoke those words. Seriously, I had no such (conscious) plans…

And then THIS happened:

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And then this happened:

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Translation: “Can we keep him? Please?”

And then, the next day, THIS happened:

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Can you blame me?

See that closed door? Thanks to the detailed instructions, guidance, and support provided by Homeward Pet, we knew to keep that door closed for a good three to four days, at least. (And during those days we changed Fergus’ name to Archer - code name: Duchess… who knows where that’s from?!) During those days, Archer became comfortable in “his” room and Tom and I got to know him (and him, us) better.

What a sweetie!

Bailey, being of dim wit (our “special child”) barely noticed the new addition, and certainly didn’t care that there was a new kitty in the house. As long as Bailey can sleep in her customary locations, all is good with her world.

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But Simon, Mr. Alpha Cat, was a completely different story. Simon knew immediately! He just hung out outside Archer’s door, smelling and pacing and smelling some more – which is exactly what he should have been doing. Apparently, smell is the most important sense in the world of cat introductions.

On the third day, we allowed Simon into Archer’s room – while Archer explored the very kitty-laden smells of our bedroom. They never met during this shuffling, as we used our office as a “holding room” while moving each kitty into a new environment. We wanted them to get very used to each other’s smell before allowing them any face-to-face contact.

We’d been told that, although Archer had not previously lived with cats, he had lived with a large mastiff. Knowing that introductions to the dogs would likely be easier than introductions to the cats (or at least to Simon), I put Archer into the cat carrier (which I had left in his room and with which he had become comfortable) and I took him into the livingroom.

Once Archer saw the dogs, he just wanted OUT!

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Trepidaciously, I opened the zipper a bit, thinking he’d sniff and explore from the safety of the carrier. Instead, he immediately used his nose to open the zipper! He couldn’t get out to greet the dogs (and the house) fast enough! (The other cats were behind closed doors at this point.) Yup, Archer had most definitely lived with – and perhaps even ruled over – a big dog! Shasta really didn’t care about Archer at all, but Quinn fell deeply and madly in love right away!

From that point on, Quinn just had to be part of everything! She adores her new friend and wants to be with Archer at all times. It seemed to be mutual, so we just allowed them to be together as often as they both wanted – which was always.

At this point, it was time to allow Archer and Simon a glimpse of each other – a controlled glimpse.

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We cracked the door open just enough for the kitties to see each other. There was lots of curiousity, but no real aggression, other than a lazy hiss now and then. 

For the next day or two, this is as close to each other as we allowed Simon and Archer to get – and we made sure that these interactions were all very positive, with lots of treats and playing and petting for both cats, in view of each other.

Once it seemed that the cats were comfortable and even wanting more, I put Archer back into the carrier and brought him into the hall to “be” with Simon. Simon decided it was time to PLAY!

Progress?! Perhaps -- at poor Archer’s expense. But progress nonetheless. After this, Archer was pooped – and probably a bit overwhelmed!

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That night, we introduced both cats to THE best cat toy on the face of the earth: Da Bird. I was skeptical when the adoption counselor at Homeward Pet suggested we get this specific toy and no other, swearing it was by far the best “hunting” toy available for cats. But she was absolutely correct. It is, like she insisted, “cat crack”! Maybe it’s the construction that mimics a fly fishing lure, with the same spins and whirrs and bounces, but they LOVE this thing! I truly believe that this toy made kitty introductions 100% easier.

Tom took one Da Bird and I took the other and we gave Archer and Simon a long parallel play session, which they loved.

(Did you catch that Tom, being wiser than me, suggested that we “call it” while things were positive and comfortable for both kitties? We did, and it was probably a good idea.)

At this point, the cats seemed to tolerate, and even enjoy, each other enough to just hang for a bit together.

Supervised, of course.

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I swear, Archer could not figure out how one resident cat could be so fun and playful, while the other pretty much ignored him and just wants her spaaaaace.

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So here’s where we are now:

Simon and Archer have begun to play together – nicely, like this, for the most part. (I don’t count on Bailey ever playing with Archer. Just leave her alone and let her sleep, fergoodnesssake!)

We did have one set-back yesterday, when Simon cornered Archer, resulting in plenty of hissing and deep, loud meowing, along with an under-the-bed tussle, which freaked me out a bit. But no one got hurt and, I’d guess, a certain amount of posturing took place.

All three kitties have been asleep in the same room for hours today, almost two weeks after we adopted Archer. The slow introductions were well worth it and I believe that we are well on our way to having a harmonious menagerie around here.

Now if I hint at wanting another cat someday, please STOP ME – because four cats definitely does a cat lady make!

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Costa Rica–Days 7 and 8: Bahia del Sol (and, unintentionally, House of Summer Sand) and departure

Last year, when we planned our trip to Costa Rica, the idea was that we would begin our trip at La Carolina Lodge, a rustic working farm deep in the rainforest, and end it at the very luxurious Bahia del Sol Resort at Playa Potrero, stopping at Azul Ocean Club Hotel in-between.

So when we arrived at Bahia del Sol, we were looking forward to settling into their 2-bedroom luxury suite and then relaxing amid the beautiful grounds of the resort. 

It didn’t quite go that way.

After a quick stop for lunch in crowded, touristy Tamarindo (thank goodness we didn’t decide to stay there!)…

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…we arrived at Bahia del Sol. Elisabeth arrived at the front desk before me and was immediately greeted by, “You must be Carol…”

Hmmmm – that’s either great, or a bit foreboding!

Within a few minutes, the manager, Maik, had been called to talk with us, though we didn’t know why.

“I am so sorry…” Maik began.

Oh shit. Really? What are we in for?

“We don’t have a room for you at the resort today.”

Seriously? I had a confirmed reservation for a two-bedroom suite, made back in October, in my hand. Needless to say, we were NOT happy – and had no problem saying so. We were so looking forward to staying at the Bahia del Sol, especially after seeing photos like this on their website:

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Maik mentioned that he had secured an oceanfront condo for us just a few hundred meters away and that we could use all the amenities of the resort – AND that he would personally see to it that we were happy with every aspect of our stay.

Needless to say, we remained dubious, and pissed, but agreed to follow Mike to the condo, called House of the Summer Sand.

It was, as promised, true oceanfront…

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…unlike, it turns out, the suites at Bahia del Sol, which are very nice, but not actually waterfront.

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Once we saw the condo and realized that Maik wasn’t full of hot air and really was committed to complete customer service, we softened and thanked him.

He remained absolutely true to his word and we did have in him what felt to be our own personal consierge service! He even visited us on his day off to see if we needed anything and to make sure our experience continued to be a good one! In fact, Maik became a trusted friend in our two days at – and near – the Bahia del Sol resort!

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We really did get the best of both worlds. Sometimes a dismal situation really can turn into a positive one!

Maik secured for us a beautiful oceanfront table for dinner, but before dinner we enjoyed the grounds and the amazing sunset.

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The food at the resort’s restaurant, Nasu, was phenomenal – especially the fresh spring rolls and the tuna (ahi!) tartar. And the accompnying live music was wonderful too.

The next day we spent some time at Playa Flamingo which, like Tamarindo, felt too crowded and touristy for us, but it did boast a beautiful beach.

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On the way back, we stopped at a beachfront, “neighborhoody” restaurant for lunch which included, as always, rice and beans.

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Back at the resort, we enjoyed watching a Costa Rican wedding on the beach. (Costa Rica, it turns out, is also huge for American “destination weddings.”)

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The next day, our last full day in Costa Rica, we just relaxed and soaked up the sunshine, knowing that it would be months before we’d feel the warmth of the sun in Seattle again.

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Knowing that we had a flight to catch later in the afternoon and that we’d already checked out of the condo, Maik, remaining ever true to his word, offered us a key to the suite we had originally reserved so we could shower before heading to the airport. It was very nice.

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But we all decided that we were just fine with how things turned out.

We got to the airport a few hours early and returned the car – for which we were charged a late fee (grrrrrrrr – full story here). In spite of some annoying glitches, scams, and snafus (National Car Rental, I am talking to YOU!), the trip was a resounding success. 

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Now if I could just sleep on planes. Sigh.

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