Pets often pick up on their owners’ behavior

Published 12:17 pm Thursday, February 16, 2023

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Sweet William, as I like to call him, or Willy, has taken up residence in the downstairs bathroom.


Our latest rescue, the little ginger feral cat that showed up, frozen, starving and very ill with calicivirus, was, we guessed, about two days from death. The virus left him with an upper respiratory infection and painful ulcers inside his mouth so that he couldn’t eat even if he wanted to.

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Over $800 later, our ‘free’ cat, now healthy and grateful with a robust appetite, has been released from the quarantine of the Unabomber Shack (my former radio studio) and into our house. We followed the customary procedure of introducing a new cat into a household: keep them in a bathroom for a couple of days, let the other cats and dogs sniff noses with him beneath the door, and in 48 hours, let him out and then it’s all one big, happy family.


That approach, in our 23 years of living here has never worked. Not once.


Every cat we’ve ever had has been appalled to find that another cat has moved in and results in hissing and ninja attacks to establish territory. And of course, the dogs, thoroughly enjoying the spectacle, delight in egging it all on.


William, bless him, has tried to venture twice out of the downstairs bathroom, only to be stared down by 12-year-old Mia, who hunkers down, locks and loads on him with a piercing glare that begs to have the soundtrack of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ playing in the background. Completely intimidated, Willy shrunk back and retreated into the bathroom.


And there he has remained, with the door open, except for a couple of minutes at night when we hear his chirrup and hop down from the linen cabinet (which sits in front of a window, complete with a cushy pillow on top upon which he happily spends his day) and venture down the hall until he loses his nerve.


“What if he never leaves the bathroom?” I asked Paul, stroking Willy’s head to a plethora of purring as we took him his dinner.


“Then I guess it’s his happy place,” Paul said. “We can’t force him to leave. But I think he’ll get braver in time and start to explore more.”


Two more weeks passed.


“He’s showing zero inclination to leave,” I commented. “He just likes sitting on the pillow and staring out the window.”


“It’s also above the heating vent,” Paul pointed out. “Maybe because he was so sick and cold for so long that he’s just enjoying being warm and having room service.”


Another week went by. Willy never budged.


“This is getting pretty weird,” Paul admitted. “I mean, he’s eating, using the litter box, but that’s it. He doesn’t do anything but stare out the window.”


I thought for a moment.


“You know, they say pets often pick up on their owners’ behavior.”


“Meaning?” asked Paul.


“If you think about it,” I replied, “all he needs is a recliner and a remote. And then he’ll be pretty much like every other guy during football season.”


William still hasn’t budged