A couple of weeks ago, we began the process of moving apartments. And even though the move was literally only a distance of two blocks, moving is a pain, plain and simple. There is the packing, repacking, stacking, carrying, schlepping, and the inevitable sound of cracking, which is accompanied by nagging, “was that my box you dropped?!” Besides the pain and strain, moving can cause emotional turmoil for the family.
To help minimize the stress, a relative of mine, who also happens to be my favorite child psychologist, gifted me a book called “Big Ernie’s New Home.” This book came in handy when one of my ‘children’ broke down during the move. I’m actually referring to our beloved orange and white Maine Coon, Fluffy.
Fluffy has been a member of our family for over a year. He chose us as his owners one sunny afternoon when he refused to leave our backyard. He swaggered right through the porch door and into our living room making himself comfortable on the couch, letting out a contented, “purr, purr, purr.” We took the cat to the vet, had him vaccinated, and treated him for fleas and ticks. He has been our Fluffy, ever since.
When we recently needed to move from our ground-floor apartment to a third floor, we knew there would be some challenges for Fluffy. While we were getting an extra room for one of our real children, we would be losing the backyard, and subsequently the easy access our furry buddy had enjoyed to the outside world. Leaving Fluffy behind was out of the question, he had come to depend on us, and us on him.
So, with a prayer and lots of tuna, we put him in his travel box and drove him down the street to his new home. The dislike of the new place was instant. He rushed about, searching for a cracked window or open door, moaning the whole while for us to let him out. He continued to scurry and moan, scurry and moan, clearly miserable, missing his familiar surroundings and free access to the street. He seemed to scream at us, “take me back, take me back!”
In an effort to make our cat more comfortable, I got out the book, “Big Ernie’s New Home,” which not only detailed how to help children adjust to new places but cats as well. The authors gave these four tips.
1. Introduce the cat to his new environment slowly. (too late)
2. Make sure to give your cat lots of love and attention. (we already do that, constantly)
3. Make them a spot by the window so they can see the outside. (make my sofa a cat throne, never!)
4. Consider taking them on walks. (Are you kidding me?!!)
The first suggestion we had botched, allowing Fluffy free access to the whole apartment from the beginning. The second suggestion we already did, giving our Fluffy, lots and lots of pets. Begrudgingly, I followed suggestion number three, setting up his cat throne on my leather sofa by the window, providing him an extensive view of our beautiful city. Yet the moaning continued, at night, in the morning, in the later morning, in the afternoon, before bed, in the middle of the night, and early again the next day.
Trying dreaded suggestion number four, my husband bought Fluffy a harness and leash. Fastening a harness around a cat’s middle felt a lot like doing ab crunches. There was moaning, hissing, and angry declarations like, “this is the last time I will put myself through this!”
When the leash was fastened, I led Fluffy to the front door. My youngest joined the fun, carrying her phone and some yummy protein just in case things didn’t end well. The walk started off okay. Fluffy seemed to enjoy sniffing leaves and chewing the fallen twigs on the walkway. He climbed under bushes and rubbed against tree trunks, purring with contentment. As stars began to replace the purple sky, my daughter and I felt it was time to head home.
Gently, I tugged on Fluffy’s leash. He resisted. I yanked on the harness, he stayed put. The push and pull continued until Fluffy managed to slip out of the harness. I scooped him up, he jumped out of my arms. Round and round we chased the orange and white tail as it zoomed in and out of bushes. We promised him all kinds of treats, tuna, chicken, yogurt, even restaurant-style beef hot dogs. The food bribes were rebuffed. Then Fluffy scaled a tall fence, threatening to retreat into a stranger’s yard.
My daughter called my husband, shouting franticly into the receiver, “Fluffy’s escaping!”
My husband dashed downstairs and up the walkway, Fluffy’s cat carrier in his hands. He called, “Fluffy, here boy, boy.” Fluffy leaped down from the stranger’s fence and climbed up a small wall surrounding the walkway. We cornered our furry buddy on one side of the parapet, with my husband on the other. Fluffy leaped forward and I grabbed him around the middle as my husband opened the cat carrier. Together, we cajoled him inside. When the four of us returned to the apartment, Fluffy stuck up his nose at us and plopped down on his throne by the window. Plop, went my heart down beside him.
I opened a can of tuna and placed it next to the couch. He gave a firm meow, shifting his head away from the tuna, rebuffing my peace offering. That night, my family and I talked about setting Fluffy free into the wild, but even the thought left us choked up. He was our family member, our comfort, our buddy, our Fluffy. We decided we would not let him go, for his own sake. He was not a street cat and could not survive on his own in a new territory.
A week after the “leash incident,” I’m happy to say that Fluffy is doing much better. He no longer moans that pitiful cry day and night, and he seems content with his throne, at the top of my favorite couch watching the happenings of the park below. We still give him lots of love and affection and tuna and chicken treats.
We tell him over and over again, that we are glad he is happy now, and moreover, we are glad he has decided to stay.