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Our Life with Multiple Pets

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We love having multiple pets. Since the day we married (25 years ago), there’s never been a day when we’ve had fewer than three pets. When we married, we each had pets who blended as sort of a furry Brady Bunch family. Through the years, the mixture of cats and dogs (and a procession of fish and hermit crabs at various times) in our household has never been boring.

Today we have a total of six pets: two dogs and four cats. As I type this post, our cat Inca sits in my lap (grooming my arm, actually) while Irie sleeps at my feet. Tiki and our cat Linus are in John’s office; our cats Coco and Felix are probably out in the new catio.

All six are rescues and have, each in their own way, taught us far more than we’ll ever be able to teach them. One lesson we’ve definitely learned is that each pet–canine or feline–is an individual. Each has his own distinct personality, likes and dislikes, and his own relationship with all the other members of the family, both two- and four-legged.

Take, for example, our cat Felix. Once a feral cat who was being adopted out by the city shelter as a “barn cat,” Felix has been indoors ever since the day we brought him home. It took him a long time to adjust to humans. Today, however, he loves to start the morning by jumping up in bed and he adores sitting and watching TV with us on the couch. If any other person comes in the home, though, Felix will remain out of sight until the intruder is safely gone.

When we adopted then six-month-old Irie and, soon, Tiki, we didn’t think Felix would take well to these two young pups in his home. We restricted the dogs to the downstairs so Felix could safely retreat to the upstairs offices. We gave Felix a lot of elbow room and figured there wouldn’t be much interaction between him and the dogs.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

Felix and the dogs are best buddies and, in many ways, Felix seems happier hanging out with the dogs than with the cats. (In fact, we often jokingly called black and white Felix our Boston Terrier.) He plays with them, eats with them, and even grooms them now and then.

One thing about having multiple pets that we love is just standing back and watching the interactions between everyone. Fights are rare (and, when they happen, are cat vs. cat affairs). Most of the time, we just watch the daily interaction and social “conversation” between our four-legged family members and try to learn more about the ways they communicate, not just with us, but with each other.

Each pet has a distinct relationship with every other pet. It’s not a simple matter of whether a dog likes cats or a particular cat likes dogs; it’s a question of whether this cat likes this dog and visa versa. Linus, our 11-year-old cat, likes Irie (and even shares the bed with her at night) but not the more dominant Tiki. Every so often, Linus reinforces his position with a challenging stand in the doorway or a run to get the best dog bed before the dogs come inside after one last potty run at bedtime. Coco, our youngest and largest cat, has a curiosity about both dogs and sometimes walks up to the big girls and just looks at them as if to ask, “Are you a giant?” And Inca, our smallest cat at just seven pounds, is mama cat to all, grooming cats and dogs alike but giving out a gentle swat if someone’s being a little too rambunctious or if they dare walk by tiny Inca without acknowledging her presence.

Living with multiple pets isn’t inexpensive. Like many things in life, though, it’s often a matter of choices. We drive decade-old cars and shop at the thrift store but it’s a small price to pay for everything our furry family gives to us in return! 

Paris Permenter
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