As a preface to this short essay (article? entry?) I would like to point out that Ozone arrived with his name from the mission and that we did not name him. I do not have an obsession with naming my pets O names. Yesterday I wrote about the arrival of Ozone, our new dog, but I did not mention Onyx. Onyx is a nineteen-year-old, miniature, domestic short hair. She has on occasion shared our home with various other cats, but in her long life she has never seen a dog up close. It is safe to say at this point that she is not thrilled with this new experience and would have been perfectly fine if a dog never joined the family.
Adding a dog to a family with an elderly cat is not a step that we took quickly or without a great deal of thought. We consulted with our vet, spoke with the people at the mission, and thought about the way that Onyx has dealt with stress recently and at other points in her life. Onyx is, herself, a rescue animal albeit one that we rescued nineteen years ago from a fairly unstable and dangerous parking lot situation a few days after her mother perished in that same parking lot. It took Justin a few days to coax her from her hiding place with food after the unfortunate incident. Ultimately, we arrived at the conclusion that given that Onyx is in excellent health, athletic, and generally very happy she would be able to adapt to the new presence. We did, however, anticipate that it might be somewhat bumpy, and we were correct.
Ozone for his part has, mostly, been a perfect gentleman. He looks at Onyx but does not touch, and with the exception of one unfortunate incident when she decided to take off running from right under his nose, he has not tried to chase her. In that one unfortunate incident he halted after about three seconds when a “no” command was given. Onyx, has, however, responded to the situation by being timid and agitated. I cannot say that I blame her. Ozone is ten times Onyx’s mass, and if I am being entirely honest his head is roughly equal in size to her entire body. We did, however, anticipate this response. Onyx has always been timid and has tended toward avoidance as a coping mechanism.
We have set Onyx up with a room secured as a safe space, it has a gate that Ozone cannot get past, but that Onyx can easily slip through with or without using the built-in cat gate. We have placed a litter box, food, water, as well as one of her cat beds in the room, and we have added a Feliaway pheromone diffuser to the room to help her maintain her calm. Overall, it seems to be working. For the moment, we are keeping the door behind the gate closed most of the time (we discovered that Ozone likes to sit at the gate and look at Onyx and this naturally stresses Onyx out). The plan is to open the door, leaving the gate closed, for slowly increasing periods of time to allow Onyx to become acclimated to Ozone. In the thirty minutes or so that we tried this yesterday she seems much more accepting of the situation than she had been earlier in the day.
I have high hopes that the two will eventually arrive at a point where they at least tolerate each other. Though I am prepared to leave Onyx’s safe space as sacrosanct for as long as necessary, even make it permanent if that is required. It might actually be required; Onyx likes to nibble her food over extended periods of time and Ozone is the kind of guy that would be more than happy to help her finish it if he can get to it.