A Tale of Two Kitties – Part 2

Ana watches Athena from a distance while Kathleen Denly pets Athena. Photo by Kathleen Denly

If you haven’t read Part 1, you may want to read that first as this will make more sense if you have, but for those in a hurry I’ll put what you need to know into a boring nutshell:  We brought home one cat (Ana), then 2 years later brought home a second cat (Athena). (Trust me, the previous post is much more interesting.)

As I mentioned in my previous post, our boys were over the moon with excitement about the newest addition to our family. Ana… not so much.

Bringing Athena Home

When we first brought Athena home we took her immediately to a bathroom where I had set up a litter box, food bowl, water bowl, and small cat tree just for her. We shut the door and I sat in there with her while the boys took turns coming in to visit her. This would be her sanctuary room for the next 24 hours.

When it was time, I went and found Ana who was sleeping on the other side of the house and hadn’t yet noticed the new arrival. I picked her up and carried her over to the closed bathroom door where she could see Athena peeking through the crack at the bottom.

It took Ana a moment to notice her, but I knew exactly when she did. Her ears perked up and she immediately tensed.

I set her down next to the door and waited to see how she would react. By this time Athena was mewing up a storm at having been left alone in the bathroom and was reaching intermittently under the door with her paw trying to gain attention. When I set Ana down Athena stopped pawing and mewing.

For a tense few seconds, the two cats smelled each other under the door. When Athena mewed again Ana flinched but kept smelling under the door. Then the lonely, playful Athena made a strategic mistake:  She reached a paw toward Ana.  Ana immediately hissed and tried to run away. I scooped Ana up and tried to soothe her but she was having none of it and kept hissing so I let her go.

Athena seemed completely unphased by the event, although she was still unhappy with being alone in the bathroom.

Of course, I went in and pet her for a while, but I couldn’t spend the entire day sitting on a linoleum floor petting the world’s softest fur ball – no matter how cute her purring and nuzzling.

Ana Is Less Than Thrilled

Over the next several hours Ana made it abundantly clear that she was NOT happy about this new addition to our home. In fact, she was quite angry with me in particular and would hiss anytime I went near her.

Clearly she blamed me for Athena’s existence.

Ana kept well away from Athena’s bathroom. She wouldn’t even go into the hallway near it. Most of the time she literally stayed as far away as the limits of the house would allow her.

Eventually, Athena had settled in and it was time to let her explore the house. So we let her out but kept an eye on her to see how she interacted with her new environment and to watch for her first encounter with Ana.

About two hours after we let Athena out, she was playing in the living room when Ana wandered in… and froze. Then hissed and immediately ran away. Athena, again, seemed unphased and simply resumed playing. This was typical of their interactions for several hours. So we decided to help things along a bit and brought out two new cat toys. One I used to play with Athena. The other my husband tried to get Ana to play with after he brought her out from hiding.

Ana did not want to play. She wanted to run away.

This time, however, my husband held her firmly, but gently in his lap and stroked her and spoke to her in soothing tones while I continued playing with Athena about ten feet away. Occasionally, Athena would try to approach Ana to play, but I made sure to keep her from getting too close. Eventually, Ana relaxed a little in his lap and sat watching Athena play, still alert for danger. Thus began a new phase of their interaction.

At night we kept Athena safely tucked away in her sanctuary. During the day, my husband and I would take turns interacting with each cat once Ana decided to forgive me for Athena’s presence.

It was a remarkable success the first time we convinced Ana to play with the other new toy in the same room where Athena was playing with her new toy. Gradually we lured them into playing incrementally closer together until they were playing side by side. Still, Ana was tense and alert for signs that she needed to run away and would often stop playing to watch Athena suspiciously.

Ana watches from a few inches away as Athena plays with a toy. Photo by Kathleen Denly
Ana watches from a few inches away as Athena plays with a toy.

Ana Is Scared

One time, Athena pounced immediately in front of Ana before I could catch her, scaring Ana. Ana hissed, swatted at her, and growled. We noticed, though, that Ana did not use her claws but kept them retracted. Ana was not aggressive. She was defensive. She was making sure Athena knew she did not want her that close.

Eventually, Ana graduated to climbing to the top of her cat tree in the living room and staring down at Athena as she played. Athena wanted to climb up, too, but we kept her down. We brought in a second cat tree and Ana wanted that one to be hers, too, but we made her share that one with Athena by ensuring they took turns using it.

The Pivotal Moment

As time went on, Ana would allow Athena to come closer and closer to her. On the morning of the third day, I caught the two of them nose to nose smelling each other for a few seconds before Ana hissed and ran away again. It was a pivotal moment.

By the next day, you could see that Ana had accepted Athena’s presence and would no longer freak out any time Athena approached her. By day eight they were chasing each other playfully around the house.

On day ten, I walked in to find this:

What I Learned From My Cats

When Athena first came home Ana was completely terrified of her. Now they are best friends. I think this is a beautiful example of the way God sometimes works in our lives. Ana wanted nothing to do with Athena and would have gotten rid of her if she had the means to do so. Yet now they spend much of their days playing, sleeping, and hunting bugs together. I think this shows that although we may be terrified or unhappy about (to say the least) certain events in our lives, we may after time and with a little trust, discover that God has worked it out for our good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

~Romans 8:28

This message seems especially appropriate at this time of year as we pause to consider the gift of Christ’s birth. One of the most beautiful and touching songs of this season considers His birth, life, eventual death and resurrection from the perspective of Mary, His mother. I encourage you to take a moment and put yourself in her shoes, with all the struggles she faced as the mother of Christ.

Being the mother of three boys myself, it is both awe-inspiring and heartbreaking to consider what she went through from seeing her son perform miracles to watching his death on the cross. Yet, God had a plan more intricate, precious, and full of blessings than any of us could have imagined.

Ana & Athena lie beside each other on the bed, looking up at the camera. Text reads,
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get two cats to look at the camera at the same time?

What do you think?

Have you ever experienced something that at the time seemed truly terrible, but in the end, God used it for your good or the good of others?

Please share your story in the comments below. I’d love to read about it!

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