Having signed on the dotted line for Lilo nearly two years ago, I thought that the reality of ever having a cat would be remote, at best.
Blindsided by the pitfalls described on various fatalistic web-sites, I kept pushing the idea of a cat to the back burner. The image of Lilo dashing through the garden with an inert cat in her mouth was pretty easy to conjure up.
I missed a cat about the place and decided to revisit the idea. I contacted Lilo's original trainer, who had written on the adoption form that:
"Lilo has shown no interest at all in the cats.€
Just wanted to make sure that wasn't mistaken identity and should have actually read:
"Lilo showed fanatical interest in dismembering Fluffy€.
The former was confirmed and as GAP had deemed her 'Cat Trainable', it was a case of now or never.
I visited our local SPCA and tried to find the nearest thing I could to a stuffed cat or a cushion. Something that would not stir the racing hormones. Walking up and down the cat-rooms they all looked pretty agile to me - until I got to the end room. There it was - a large heap of upside down ginger fur spilling out over the sides of a basket, paw in the air and a snoring head thrown back in slumber.
I half expected the pile of fur to surge with life when stroked, but instead a silent "Miaow€ and a paw opening and closing was about it. Perfect. When the pile of fur did eventually rise, it was slow moving and ponderous. Even more perfect. He was a huge eight year old cat with a very sad face. He had been found hiding under a building somewhere and had been languishing at the SPCA for a month.
The SPCA didn't seem too fussed on the idea of my bringing Lilo to meet the cat. I get that, they probably had the same mental images that had been plaguing me. So after a week of toing and froing, Benjamin came to his Forever Home.
Baby gates were everywhere - as the books said:
"Let your hound see the cat, rather than deeply sniffing at it from under a closed door€.
There was no way Benjamin was going to get through the baby gates anyway, as his stomach was bigger than any baby. I made the bedroom into a cattery, complete with new cat-door (locked), extra-large cat tree and a loo tray with white crystals. Placing Benjamin safely in the bedroom, door open, gates across, I went to find Lilo.
Lilo's radar had been pinging since the time the car arrived in the garage. She came down the hall like a sniper hunting for Isis and stood transfixed on the other side of the gates looking in. She has naturally pricked ears, but I noticed they now actually crossed over in the middle of her head, her tail was wagging furiously in a whizzing circular fashion and her eyes had doubled in size. I think they call this 'focus' and it's not that crash hot to have 'focus'. Well Benjamin definitely came to the same conclusion and hid behind the dressing table for the rest of the day.
Day two, same as day one, day three and four - see day one and day two. Benjamin discovered that he could make his way from behind the dressing table, up the valance and hide in the bed all day, without being seen by the Hound of the Baskerville. Lilo knew exactly where Benjamin was and would stand rooted to the spot, behind the gates, with eyes x-raying and lazering the lump in the bed. All this went on for several more days. Then very gradually over the next week, I took Lilo into the bedroom on the lead, which always resulted in Benjamin spending yet another day behind the dressing table.
Patience. Patience. Patience.
After two weeks Benjamin stopped hiding and came out on top of the bed. Lilo could just reach him and had the dubious pleasure of being able to sniff his bottom, which seemed to be acceptable to sniffee and to the the sniffer. The time to take the baby gates down had arrived.
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Lilo was quite excited with all this, but each time she came into the bedroom and after the initial sniff greeting, I encouraged her to look away and for that she had a bit of dried liver as a treat/reward.
Well Lilo is no fool. She very quickly learnt that if she went into the bedroom and didn't look at the pile of ginger stuff she would get a liver treat immediately. So this training plan actually began to unravel and back fire. Lilo would hurtle down to the bedroom umpteen times a day and stand there clacking her teeth in anticipation of a treat. Benjamin's fur would stand on end when the thundering hooves got closer and the clacking teeth arrived, but to his credit he held his ground on the bed. All in all it seemed pretty good to me.
I began to feel very smug about this progress. It's always fatal, isn't it? Feeling smug? We were in the third week. Benjamin was being brave and walking down the hall and into the sitting room. He was very brave; for it was here that he had his bottom sniffed, his ears sniffed and his nose sniffed. It was as if he was an international traveller passing through Heathrow customs and was suspected of having something internally secreted. It was here that he was followed around, stared at and accompanied by the sound of clacking teeth, pricked ears and a busy tail. Even I wasn't sure where all this was heading.
Benjamin had developed a strange gait which was very slow and very low to the ground; he somehow intuitively knew that to run would be a very bad plan indeed. Lilo just kept on examining him, rather hoping he might make a dash for it. It was on such an occasion that the door-bell rang. I did not know quite what to do. If I made a grab for the dog, I would surely miss and the cat would run. If I made a grab for cat, the dog might do the same and win. If I answered the door - they both would run and the rest would be too awful to write about.
Anyway, quick decision time - I did grab the cat and carried him to the door. Opened it - the man outside loudly proclaimed "Good morning madam€ and waved his arms and hands at his truck to explain his visit. This was more than Benjamin could stand, and for the first time the ginger sloth became a maniacal power house of muscle and claw. He lurched out of my arms, shot past Lilo, who couldn't believe her luck and the pair of them went hurtling down the hall. I slammed the door in the poor man's face and ran after them both. Benjamin was behind the dressing table and Lilo was sauntering out of the bedroom looking well pleased with herself€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦.
I now had seeds of doubt€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦..and Lilo was busy with her chew bone honing a very smug smile.
Back to Square One and Where to from here?..................................
Heather, Lilo and Benjamin