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Balancing Act: New Fur Kid, New Schedule

by | Feb 12, 2014 | Cat Behavior & Care, Dog Training & Care | 23 comments

Valentine’s Day is Friday, so love is in the air, right?



I’m used to how Magic and Seren get along–or at least, respect each other. Sure, it took Seren a few years to learn to tolerate the Magical-Dawg, and it took hard-headed Magic the same length of time to stop testing her “boss-icity.”

Now a new clueless fur-kid has joined the family. Adopting a cat has thrown both pets for a loop. And they’re not the only ones having to adjust. Oh, I’m in love all right, and Magic is smitten and the kitten is gloating and Seren is hissed off. And MY schedule’s in tatters and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future.



Magic can’t get enough sniffs…and Karma seems to enjoy the game. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

Balancing the needs and demands of Karma with what the resident pets have come to expect takes skill and patience. Probably it’s good for me. I need to be more flexible but in reality I’m much more like Seren-Kitty and love routine.

Magic, on the other paw, enjoys having something new and exciting to break up the day, so he’s enjoying kitten antics. When Magic first arrived, we had to set waste baskets on countertops to keep him from grazing the soiled tissues and shredding or scattering other “fun” edibles from the trash.

Countertops don’t stop Karma. It’s actually sort of fun trying to guess what new trouble he’ll find. When I lecture about cat personalities I like to describe the broad types as “Shrinking Violet” and “Christopher Columbus” cats. Before now, I thought of Seren as the Border Collie of cats, always busy and finding things to do.

Karma trumped her antics. He steals the dog’s toys. And he has the gumption to invite Magic to play and then flop on his back and paw-smack the dog’s paws to get a rise out of him. Oh please help me…My to-do list has become the to-don’t list, or maybe the “Deal-With-Karma-Then-To-Do List.”


Seren remains watchful, and above it all. That’s as it should be for the Queen, don’t you think? Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

No doubt about it, Seren comes first and then Magic. It’s not that I have favorites, it comes down to individual critter needs. Simply put, Seren’s old and takes coddling. Magic is potentially lethal–even if he is a teddy bear behind that ferocious 91-pound body–and he was here first.

Pet world is not a democracy. People make mistakes trying to treat their fur kids equally. Karma needs to understand his place in the household not just to keep the peace with the other pets, but to protect him–and them.

Karma is like the Nermal character in Garfield.But cute will wear off as he becomes a mature, handsome fellow. Adult pets like Magic and Seren do often seem to recognize baby-behaviors and make allowances. Once Karma is grown up, everyone needs to respect each other, though, because I want this fur-gang to be together and get along for years to come.

Adopting a Cat: THE NEW REALITY

Karma touched my heart in a very different way than the other two. While Seren is prim and proper, Magic is a play-focused bruiser. Karma is all juvenile delinquent but so dang cute you can’t stay mad at him. My three furry stooges each bring me joy in a very different way and I find myself laughing more watching their interaction and growing relationship.

I’d forgotten just how active youngsters can be. Seren used to chew up paper from my fax machine and answer the phone, and at least he’s not learned to do that yet.

Karma weighs a bit over eight pounds and really makes the stairway thunder when he tornadoes up and down with the “zoomies.” He’s discovered the joys of attacking the roll of toilet paper. And he’s a bottomless pit eager to munch anything that smells like food–even Seren’s kidney diet (she is NOT amused) and including Magic’s kibble (he’s been tolerant, surprisingly so.) I need to get a picture of Karma STANDING in the dog’s water bowl while drinking.


At this point, I can’t leave the three alone together. Supervision is a must, but I can’t work and run interference with the furry crew at the same time. So my schedule had to change.

Now I spend the night with Karma and Magic. After we wake up and take care of the business of Karma-Kitten’s food, potty and exercise, the rest of the morning belongs to Seren and Magic. I read the paper and we all eat breakfast, before I start the work day–and Karma spends time alone in “his” room. Break time during the day for Magical-Dawg is another good time to check on Karma and allow some free-run playtime. Usually Seren continues to sleep. And then back to work for another few hours before shutting down work for the evening and riding herd on ALL the pets out at once.

Eventually my schedule will change again, once all three have accepted (or at least learned to tolerate) the new reality. For now, we’re taking it very slow. Seren’s a bit more active these days, watching for that “evil interloper” and (dare I suggest?) enjoying the opportunity to school the new kid.

Personally, I’m having a ball. 🙂

How have you handled introductions of new pets in your home? Did the resident critters fall head over heels in love–or hate? Do tell!

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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!


  1. Patricia

    Karma is so cute, Seren is such a queen and regal and Magic is a handsome guy. You’re not kidding when you say schedules, etc. change with the arrival of a new family member. I really didn’t realize some of the problems you could encounter introducing newbies to their new families. We brought Termite inhouse almost 2 years ago to Macy and Thomas who were 7 year old siblings. It took Macy longer to warm up to the new family member. All of them love one another in their own different ways the same as we love all of them in different ways. When we got the siblings they came at a time when my other 2 cats were 19 1/2 years old and had just died 4 days apart. I was not going to get any more cats for at least a while and my cousin found the siblings and of course they saw SUCKER on my head. The only issues now is that puberty has struck Termite. He is jumping on Thomas and instead of Thomas getting out of the situation, he just freezes and mega meows for human help. He weighs twice as much as Termite but won’t stand up to him. Now Termite knows how much he can push Macy. If he messes with her much, she let’s him have it. Termite likes to wrestle but sometimes he gets too rough. He likes to nip at them. He’s full of energy. I told him the other day he was wound up tighter than a G-string and I sure thought I got him FIXED before he had a memory. No such luck.

    • Amy Shojai

      HA! “Tighter than a G-string” I love that! Of course, at my house the only G-string is on the cello and if it gets wound too tight, “SPROING!!!” *s* As much as Magic enjoys Karma, he can get worn out with all the pestering, too.

  2. Amy Shojai

    Someday you’ll get to have the pet of your dreams again–and the kiddo will help! *s*

  3. Jenny Hansen

    I adore that name, and what a cute kitty!! I want to have a pet in the house so bad, but I just can’t do it with a toddler. I’d lose my mind. I can’t wait to hear the continuing adventures of Karma, Magic and Seren…

  4. Andrea Dorn

    I have a very long introductory period. In a multicat household it is imperative to quarantine new cats for a specific amount of time not only so both parties get used to the other cats’ smell/sounds but also to prevent introduction of disease.

    Used to be I’d quarantine the new cat(s) for 3 months then test them for FIV/FeLV. Once I was certain they didn’t have any respiratory diseases and their skin was clear of ringworm, fleas, etc. and they tested negative for the viruses I would slowly let them sniff noses through the door for a week or more depending on reactions. Eventually I could see that things were going to be okay and I”d let the new cat out under supervision.

    Now, the AAFP and other experts say that 60 days is enough quarantine time before testing. If I were to get a new cat now that’s what I would follow. Of course I would adjust depending on the reactions of the cats to each other.

    However, I know most people don’t have the patience or the facilities to go through all of this. It all depends on how much time and effort you want to put into it and how important all of that is to you.

    And even with all these precautions viruses do get in and some cats just don’t like each other. There is no perfect answer.

    • Amy Shojai

      Yep, that’s why I kept Karma separated from Seren until he was FIV/FeLV tested. With two cats it’s much easier to monitor than in a situation with many cats. The first two days, Seren mostly slept and I don’t think she even knew he was there. I wore an old shirt over top of my clothes to interact with Karma, and took off the shirt and washed my hands thoroughly before leaving the “isolation room” too. But in this case, I think Seren’s chronic URI was/is more of an issue toward Karma than the reverse. They were apart about 10 days before he was tested. His next vet visit is in another 2 weeks for the next kitty boosters, since we don’t know his vx history. Karma wants to interact with Seren, and she’s watchful as long as they are a goodly distance. I don’t expect acceptance or even tolerance for another 3-4 weeks, if then. We’ll see.

  5. Amy Shojai

    Hi Brenda, how long as the new one been there? Not sure Seren will ever deign to nose-touch. *s* I’ll be happy if the hisses fade away. Thanks for the congrats! It’s a zoo but that’s sorta the way I like it, too. *s*

  6. Brenda

    I meant to add CONGRATS (of course)! and if Oscar can come around so can Seren! They sound like their atttitudes are exactly the same!

  7. Brenda

    We are in the middle of this type of experience! Our new little girl (well, she was 6 lbs when she arrived) takes no guff from anyone. Their progress toward acceptance would have gone faster had she not harassed Oscar endlessly intially and wore down his gentlemanly patience. Then she was worried & he was growling. Now he seems to be mentoring her in how-to fight techniques. (And in a not-good way she used to love her hairball medicine until she saw he hates it so now she won’t admit she likes it but once she gets it she still scarfs it.) They are all so funny!

    We felt bad about having taken her in since Oscar was so unhappy initially (and even depressed), but it is working out thank goodness.

    Having her in a separate room a good bit of the time makes him miss her. Sometimes they nose rub in greeting, sometimes they don’t. They are getting along better and better! She brings excitement to his previously placid and getting-his-own-way-mostly way of life.

  8. Patricia Sands

    Amy, I love how Karma found his new home. You all sound very happy!

    • Amy Shojai

      Seren’s not so happy but the rest of us are having fun! And she’s coming around (she won’t admit it though)

  9. Amy Shojai

    Sunlight puddles are great schmoozing ops for kitties. *s* Of course, there are step-by-step intro tips in my various ComPETability books which can be adapted based on the purr-sonalities of the pets involved. Some need lots of time…others not so much. Love the name MacArthur!

    • Mike Bacon

      He was always known as Mac… He also loved to wake me up by licking my nose, and if i didn’t get up to feed him… he would bite my nose… I learned to wake up at the first “kiss”… and then burrow under my covers as soon as I saw the attempted bite in progress.

      • Amy Shojai

        Karma has started doing that! Licking my nose, my eyes, my ears…and nibbling. And chasing my feet under the blankets.

  10. Sue Bacon

    Jenny was our “mistress” of the house and when we introduced Shadow, we didn’t realize that all the hissing, spitting and growling was normal. We tried to force the relationship. WRONG! They eventually worked it all out and we would find them sleeping together in the same patch of sunlight.

    But I would have to say my best new pet intro was when we got Mac. He was what I call a butterscotch color with white paws and a little patch on white on his back. He was so tiny when we brought him home and we had him in the car carrier in the middle of the living room while the kids ate dinner. We all thought he was sound asleep and were aware of Jenny and Shadow circling the carrier, sniffing at the new smells. All of a sudden we heard a “PAH” coming from the cat carrier. Jenny jumped back and Shadow, ever the chicken, took off. I walked over to the carrier to find Mac at the gate, fur all a-bristle, growling at Jenny. We let him out and he proceeded to tell the two adult cats that he was “large and in charge”… well that is what he thought anyway. A friend of ours in Australia suggested that we call him MacArthur, after the general, standing down the Japanese. He turned out to be our most headstrong kitty of our motley crew.

  11. Caren Gittleman

    Ohhhhh HUGE CONCATULATIONS!! I love the name too and soooooooooo precious!

    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you, my friend! Having a fun time with this little guy…not so little for long, I think, the way he EATS EATS EATS!

  12. Val

    Our newby, Sweetie, continues to integrate well with the older kitties and the dog. She was behind closed doors for a week, then behind baby gates up to the ceiling for another week. Dandi decided she would be Sweetie’s friend and I believe the others took their cue from her. Tori, the dog, ignores her unless Sweetie tries to jump onto the couch when Tori is there. Tori growls or snaps at the air and Sweetie gets the message. So far, Sweetie hasn’t gotten in too much trouble. We added two more boxes at different ends of the house. Sweetie and the other kitties all nose-touch first thing in the morning and then there isn’t much interaction among them, except Dandi and Tanji, who are 3 years and 1 year old, respectively. It’s fun having another fur-baby in the house.

    • Amy Shojai

      Good for you, Val! It’s often helpful when one of the more confident resident pets accepts the newcomer. They do indeed pattern behavior after each other.

  13. Sally

    Hint: Mollie is almost 5 and we still have to keep the TP in the vanities!

    • Amy Shojai

      Yep, just moved the TP under the sink. It’s funny, he only attacks the TP in my office bathroom upstairs but leaves it alone in the master bath…his domain.

  14. Amy Shojai

    Thanks so much Raelyn. He’s a lot of fun.

    Last night while watching Westminster dog show, Seren demanded lap time and from that position HISSSSED at the “interloper.” But within about 15 minutes, Karma came up onto my lap from behind her and she ignored him…guess if she can’t see him, he doesn’t exist, LOL! And they two of them were BOTH on my lap for about 3 minutes before Karma decided to go play with the dog. 🙂

  15. Raelyn Barclay

    Congrats on the new fur baby! Love the name.


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