It's Snowing Cats and Dogs
December 22, 2012 4:58 AM   Subscribe

We are providing temporary emergency Christmas fostering to a stray kitten in a home with a dog. The dog will be fine; please help me make this OK for the kitten, too. In exchange, I will provide kitteh photos!

A friend took in a stray kitten from her street last night. She is going out of town tomorrow, so we will be providing a temporary home for this kitten while she is away.

The kitten, who is unwell, saw a vet today and got a shot of antibiotics, and requires ear drops twice a day. This is the sum total of my knowledge of this cat, except that it has been named Bob. Friend is providing food, ear drops, and litter.

We have a dog who will not be thrilled to have her space invaded by the cat, but is very very very non-aggressive, has lived with cats before, and will predictably ignore the kitten.

I am not a cat person but my best guess is that the kitten will want a safe space to hide and be unwell and recover. I can set the cat up in one of two places:

1) In a closet with the door open a few inches. I can put bedding, food, water and a litter box in this closet.

2) Under a printer hutch with no bottom shelf, which is closed on three sides and open to the floor*. I can curtain the front with a gap for exploring. There is about 18" of clearance, so this would feel enclosed and secure. However, the food and litter would have to be under the adjoining desk, pretty much out in the open.

Alternatively, I can sequester the cat in the bathroom and provide a box for bedding/hiding, but she/he would be entirely closed off from the rest of the house and I'm not sure that's optimal.

Non-solutions: putting the cat anywhere upstairs in a bedroom because I am actually allergic and need non-cat space to prepare to die.

*Like this, but with a back and no feet.
posted by DarlingBri to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think the closet is the better option. However, you need a system to guard against accidentally shutting the door, like a wedge or a sock jammed in the hinge.

Now, where are the promised kitty pics?!?
posted by carmicha at 5:04 AM on December 22, 2012

Response by poster: I can't provide kitty pics until the kitty arrives tomorrow :) Non-closing the door is actually a non-issue as that door doesn't close properly anyway and rests 2" open, so I guess that is a bonus...
posted by DarlingBri at 5:06 AM on December 22, 2012

I think either will work -- I'd put a tablecloth (sheet) on the desk if you do the first, so it's sort of enclosed also -- but would also choose the closet. If possible, leaving something like talk radio (talk-only podcasts) going nearby so the kitten gets more used to people voices is always a nice idea.

Kittens can be explorers, even when sick, and are often surprisingly fond of dogs who are nice warm places to sleep. (And getting the cat used to dogs is not a bad thing, really.)
posted by jeather at 5:11 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

If my cat insight remains accurate at all, you will make the perfect comfykitty private luxury hideaway, which the cat will completely ignore and go find its own space, inferior in every way.

Nevertheless, one must try! I'd go with closet myself, but put the litterbox somewhere else (fairly private) away from the food and water, because cats don't like what goes in the front and what comes out the back to be near each other.
posted by taz at 5:17 AM on December 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

The closet. I would put a chair or something right in front of the opening so the dog does not stick her/his nose in there and scare the kitty.
Ask your friend to bring the towel/blanket/bedding they used so far along so the cat has a familiar scent in the new place.
Cats like small, tight spaces - if you have a shoebox or something you can put it in the closet for kitty to hide in.
Gather some string/yarn, aluminum foil/candy wrappers, feathers and the like for some diy cat toys. The cat might be curious and come out to play and to explore. It's just as likely that it will hide all the time. Enjoy!
posted by travelwithcats at 5:21 AM on December 22, 2012

Response by poster: Closet is at the end of a 5 foot hallway/stairs aperture which opens to the living room, so there is nowhere private within striking distance.

Hutch is in the kitchen, adjoining my desk, and within five feet of the dog's bed and food. I am willing to relocate the dog but the dog will ignore this because, MUMMY.

Our house is 12 feet wide and 20 feet long, so options are very limited here. None are ideal, I know :(
posted by DarlingBri at 5:24 AM on December 22, 2012

Best answer: DarlingBri, you are overworrying about this, honestly. The kitten will have a safe place for a few days before it goes home, medical care, food, a home, and will certainly find a place to hide. (Just check out all the asks about "where is my huge cat hiding?", and imagine if it were less than 2 pounds.) You will give it a place to hide, or it will find a preferred place to hide, or it will decide to adore you or the dog or someone else and not hide, but you're not going to forever traumatize it just because you put it in the hutch instead of the closet, or vice versa.

(You will, I hope, put something comfy for the cat to sleep on? They love that.)
posted by jeather at 5:34 AM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm going to go against the grain and say the bathroom. I am a firm believer that cats should be put in a single room for at least the first day or two when moving into a new location, to get used to it. Once they are comfortable and don't feel panicked because of being in foreign territory, then the space can be enlarged.

So the closet would be OK too if it's a good sized closet, but I would keep the door shut for at least the first day until you see how the kitten does. To me, the bathroom is preferable because stress can prompt accidents and carpets are a lot harder to clean. Plus, litter tracks everywhere and it's way easier to sweep off a tile floor than get out of a carpet.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:48 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: OK yes I am over-thinking this, because I actually don't really like cats but that is hardly the cat's fault so I want to make sure we are good kitty hosts. Also I am traumatised by the sick kitten who died after turning up in our yard and being turned over the the cat rescue people a few years ago and I really would like this to turn out well.

I will set the cat up with a suitable blanket-cushioned hidey box and kitteh accoutrements and hope for the best.

And then I will provide photos :)
posted by DarlingBri at 5:52 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't leave yarn or string where the kitten can find them. Kitties who eat string sometimes need surgery, it's a bad thing. You may know this, but I saw string mentioned above, so thought I'd add this.

How old is the kitten?
posted by amtho at 6:02 AM on December 22, 2012

I also suggest the bathroom. It is plenty large enough and there are less places to wedge himself under. If your home is not kitten-proofed, he can get into all sorts of small places and be difficult to find.

Also a quick tip for ear drops -- if you're having difficulties, swaddle the kitty in a towel or blanket. Makes the process MUCH easier for the both of you.
posted by Wossname at 6:27 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Again about delivering medicines: if you hold the kitten by its scruff it will turn boneless and not fight. I agree with Wossname's Cat Burrito approach for grown cats but this is a kitten, and the mother cat needs that nervous reaction to be able to hold or move kittens without having to fight them.
posted by jet_silver at 7:06 AM on December 22, 2012

Agree that the bathroom is the best option, especially considering he's sick. He needs his own private space away from people and dogs. Just make sure it's warm and that there's a nice little warm bed-space (a box with towels in it will do just fine). Move cat to closet when you need to shower.
posted by greta simone at 7:45 AM on December 22, 2012

We just adopted two kittens a couple weeks ago who were very sick when they arrived (they are thankfully doing much better). When they were sick, they were very low energy - just a little bit of exploring, a whole lot of sleeping, and no playing at all. One of the kittens liked to snuggle and be petted, the other preferred to curl up by herself.

I really think Bob will do great in any of the locations you suggested. If you have a cardboard box lying around, put a blanket in it - if you're feeling especially crafty you can even tape down part of the top so that it's partially open and partially covered, our kittens really love sleeping in semi-enclosed small spaces. We actually constructed this rather elaborate box-castle out of boxes. They mostly ignored the top level, but the shyer kitten LOVES the covered corner - she can sort of hide, but watch everything from there.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:00 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Bob will be fine. You may want to give him a hot water bottle to sleep with, especially if your place is not super warm.
posted by Specklet at 8:49 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Set up all the places. Kitty will find them and then ignore as appropriate.
posted by trip and a half at 8:57 AM on December 22, 2012

I currently have a feral kitten acclimating to the indoors in a half bath. She managed to wedge herself into the base of the pedestal sink in the first ten minutes. So be prepared to lose and then discover the cat in weird places.
posted by MsMacbeth at 10:09 AM on December 22, 2012

Response by poster: Kitty update: apparently this is not a kitten but a 1 - 2 year old juvenile. Who is at my friend's house chilling in a non-covered cat basket, ignoring her dogs who hate him. This bodes very well for his ability to acclimate to our house!
posted by DarlingBri at 10:24 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I always put new cats in the bathroom. Cats tend to run off and hide in strange and impossible places, which bathrooms rarely provide. If they seem okay, they get more access to the rest of the house.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:50 PM on December 22, 2012

Another suggestion about administering the ear drops: do it in a place you do NOT want Bob to go, such as a kitchen counter (or somewhere else OTHER than where you want him to eat/sleep/be happy), because he will likely associate that place with the unpleasantness of getting the drops. At least that was the lucky consequence I experienced after choosing the kitchen counter (for convenience) as the ear drop station for my new rescue cat. Good on you for helping your friend out on short notice. Looking forward to photos of Bob!
posted by ourroute at 9:38 PM on December 22, 2012

Response by poster: All of this anxiety was totally misplaced. No hiding place required; Bob the Kitteh is the most chilled cat ever. Within minutes of being dropped off, he's hanging in his cat bed, totally out in the open and about three feet from the dog. If the dog gets within, oh, seven inches, there's a really really really lazy hiss.

Eimear the Dog loves Bob the Kitteh, by the way.

Thank you :)
posted by DarlingBri at 11:57 AM on December 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm fairly sure that the rule of cat photos has a subclause requiring you to include photos of cat+dog if you mention interactions between the two, DarlingBri.
posted by jeather at 12:08 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: And here we are at the 24 hour mark and we just reached... cat and dog together!
posted by DarlingBri at 9:00 AM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: For the sake of posterity, Bob spent Christmas with us and then went back to his foster mother, who soon re-homed him with someone who thinks he is just the bee's knees.

Which both we and his foster mother find remarkable since we very quickly renamed Bob to Meg, as in SHUT UP MEG. (Most vocal cat in the history of ever. Sheesh.)

Anyway, he's happy and contented and meowling his head off in a home perfectly equipped to have him, so this story has a good ending. Thanks, MeFites!
posted by DarlingBri at 4:41 PM on February 13, 2013

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