“They’re getting along so well,” Gowan remarked, as Leila growled desperately under the stairs and Loki slumbered peacefully away on the bed. “I mean, the door is open, and nobody is peeing!”
Readers have been asking how Loki and Leila are doing, and Gowan’s clinical assessment pretty neatly sums things up. My cats still hate each other.
PREVIOUSLY ON THE ADVENTURES OF LOKI AND LEILA
For those just tuning in to the apparently endless Hatfield and McCoy, Montague and Capulet, Pie versus Cake tale that is Loki and Leila, I adopted Leila almost a year ago because I thought it was time for senior resident cat Loki to have a friend after being without for so long. I was initially worried about integrating a new cat into the house, because Loki can be very particular, but I was confident that things would work out in the end.
Only, from the start, Loki and Leila despised each other. Not even pseudoscience and hardcore pharmaceuticals could get them to chill the hell out and deal with it. I was resigning myself to living in a house divided, the door between the kitchen/living room and hallway/office/bedroom forever closed, even when I had guests over.
Every interaction would follow the same frustrating pattern: Loki wouldn’t care about Leila, until she moved or made a sound, at which point he would gallop to wherever she was, she would start hissing and spitting, and he would attack her. Then she’d pee. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes accompanied with a fusillade of poop nuggets.
IT'S A GOOD THING SHE'S CUTE
I’ve had a lot of people tell me in the last year that I should “just get rid of her,” as though Leila is an object that can be returned because she’s defective, instead of a living, breathing being. But here’s the thing: she’s a cat. She’s alive, and she has feelings, and she’s bonded with me and her living space even if she maintains an epic standoff with Loki and guzzles down Ativan™ like it’s going out of style.
She’s warm and smells nice, and she loves to worm her way into sweaters/shirts/blankets and nestle up against you, purring ferociously. She adores it when you separate her little toes with your fingers and when you play the upside down game -- she will lie on her back in your lap happily for hours. She loves pestering my houseguests for food and attention, and enjoys dancing around the living room.
At night, I can hear her furtively chasing her jingly bell, and in the morning, she tries to act like it moved overnight all on its own. Sometimes I hear her meowing in the cold reaches of the living room, and I drowsily feel bad for her. Poor Leila, all alone in the cold. Loki, meanwhile, jerks upright on the comforter, body suddenly tense, ears alert, until I reach out a hand and pet him.
“Just us,” I whisper, and he emits a grudging purr before going back to sleep.
I took them to the vet’s separately for their vaccinations to avoid undue drama, and hung my head sheepishly when they asked how Loki and Leila were doing. They sympathized. Some cats just don’t get along.
THE SLOW MARCH OF PROGRESS
But they are making progress. Slowly. I’m sitting with the door open right now and Leila is lying in a small patch of sun out in the open while Loki hides from the cold under the covers in the bedroom. Her little feet are twitching as she chases something in her dreams. I leave the door open when I’m up and around the house most of the time now, in the hopes that they’ll gradually desensitize. Loki no longer races for the door when it opens because he’s used to being able to pass freely back and forth, and Leila doesn’t always dart under the stairs or lunge for the top of the fridge when the door’s open.
When I have friends over, I leave the door open; Loki doesn’t like people, so Leila gets super confident knowing that he will be hiding under the bed until everyone leaves. Her outgoing personality really shines when she’s not giving the door paranoid glances, waiting for Loki to come rocketing through.
Sometimes they will even sit warily within a few feet of each other on the carpet in the living room without actually doing anything. That’s progress from a year ago, or even six months ago, or even three months ago, when it was impossible to have them in the same room at all without epic drama breaking out. Each seems to slowly be getting accustomed to the fact that the other party is not going away.
Critically, Leila is confining her urination activities to the litter box. Thankfully; I already have a chair out for reupholstering (“The domestication of the cat must have been the greatest single historical event for the upholstering trade,” I remarked to my upholsterer.) and I’ve thrown away three cat beds, so I think I’ve paid my dues (literally) at this point.
NO TAKEBACKS ON LOVE
I have hopes that someday Loki and Leila will actively tolerate each other, that Leila won’t be terrified whenever he’s in the room and he won’t be constantly on a quest to make her life miserable. It might be a long road, but that’s what I signed up for when I adopted her, because I believe in no takebacks when you bring living beings into your life by conscious choice.
Sometimes adopting an animal is seamless and everything goes like gangbusters from day one. Other times, you have to be ready to commit to some serious time to get things to work out. For me, it’s worth it when Leila and I curl up together on the green chair to read a book, or when I’m cracking up because she's crawled inside a guest’s sweater (while still on the guest), or during those rare moments when she and Loki stretch warily out on the rug, facing each other, waiting to see what happens next.
I don’t think Loki and Leila are ever going to be friends. But I do think there may come a day when they view each other with mutual snooty disdain, and that will be good enough for me.
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