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Dividing up a household of cats

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
My girlfriend lives in a rental house with some other young women. They've been living together for a while but now they are a few years out of university and they are going their own ways. There are three female cats in the house -- including Prissy, my girlfriend's cat.

There is a lot of talk about introducing cats to create a household, but how do you separate cats that have been together for a few years?

One woman is moving out next month to get married and taking her cat. This is an older cat who she's had since she was a teenager living with her parents. The woman is pretty sure her cat will adjust to losing the two playmate cats.

The second cat is Prissy's littermate who belongs to my girlfriend's good friend. Prissy and this cat are almost four years old and have always been together. My girlfriend and the friend adopted one cat each out of a litter when the kittens were four months so there is a lot of history. From what I've seen, these two cats are very closely bonded to each other.

Then there is Prissy. In my estimation Prissy's favorite people are (in order of preference): (1) her littermate; (2) her littermate's owner; (3) my girlfriend; and (4) the other woman's cat. When this household breaks up, Prissy is going to take the hardest hit and be the most disoriented.

(My girlfriend's friend is a more hands-on cat owner -- always fussing over them and playing games. My girlfriend is attentive but the friend constantly cleans the litter box, always plays a game, regularly gives out treats and really spoils all the cats.)

Anyway, on behalf of my girlfriend, what can be done to help Prissy through the breakup of this household? Prissy is the type of cat who thinks the world is her friend. She loves living in a bustling household filled with cats and humans...I don't think she has ever spent a single minute alone. Being a cat with one caretaker who is at work eight hours a day will be a huge shock to Prissy.
post #2 of 24
post #3 of 24
Is there any chance your girlfriend would get another cat to keep Prissy company? Thats the only obvious thing that comes to my mind (that you may have thought of already). At my shelter they leave on music for the kitties so it's not so strange and quiet, maybe she could leave the radio on for her? And make sure she has plenty of toys. Is she staying in the same house or moving out? Maybe making sure she has a nice perch near a window to look out of (if she doesn't already)? Extra attention for a few weeks probably would be nice if possible.

Sorry, not too sure on this one. Hope others pipe in.
post #4 of 24
When my roomate moved out with her cat ( years ago ) I had to get another cat, Kaya cried at the door for days looking for her cat Foster.It was the saddest thing! Your girlfriend is going to have to pay loads of attention to Prissy ,she is going to be devestated ,luckily most cats adjust well.If your girlfriend is going to be spending too much time away from home she needs to make arrangements for her roomate to keep the cat, or she needs to get another,cats are very social beings reguardless of what people think,they need plenty of social interaction.
post #5 of 24
Originally Posted by misstorri
If your girlfriend is going to be spending too much time away from home she needs to make arrangements for her roomate to keep the cat,
Based on your description of Prissy, that would probably be the kindest solution for her. Would your girlfriend be able to part with her?
post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 
Okay, the women had talked amongst themselves since I last caught up with my girlfriend. The lady with the oldest cat is definitely taking her older cat.

I think my girlfriend's friend secretly wants to keep Prissy but doesn't know if she can cover it financially. She might need to move back home with parents for financial reasons, and isn't even sure how awkward it would be to keep her OWN cat.

My girlfriend has plenty of money -- hey, she is working all the time -- but even she can see Prissy is more closely attached to the friend than to her. She doesn't want to be selfish, but even if her time is more limited she has still put a lot of love into Prissy over the years. It is not like she wants to give Prissy away but at times it looks like the best decision.

Also, as for getting a new kitten to be friend with Prissy, we had eventually hoped to join Prissy and Nano (my cat) into a household once my girlfriend and I are living together. But keep in mind Nano's a rescue-in-progress who is not fully socialized, so getting her to accept Prissy and another kitten would really be quite a production.

Still open to ideas!

(I told my girlfriend that if she keeps Prissy, she might want to tell the friend to back off a bit so my girlfriend can more clearly be the primary caretaker.)
post #7 of 24
Thread Starter 
The friend is going to visit her parents for a few days. Normally she would leave her cat (Prissy's best friend) at the house, but instead she is taking her home and Prissy will be without her #1 and #2 favorite companions.

This brief separation will be a good trial run.
post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 
...and it was a complete trainwreck.

Prissy really hated being away from her littermate and missed the friend as well. In the middle of the trial, the other woman (and her older cat) moved out and then Prissy was really miserable. She was left alone for ~6 hours on three working days and she made a mess of things. Prissy is clearly a cat who doesn't want to be by herself.

Now there could be some acclimation...but jeeze, I didn't see it firsthand but this trial run sounded like a disaster.

When the friend returned with the littermate, Prissy went head over heels in excitement and her littermate was somewhat aloof in return. After a day they were back to normal, but apparently the littermate is much less dependent on Prissy than vice versa.

So...? No decision has been made but any comments in the interim?
post #9 of 24
IMHO, I am rooting for the roommate to take Prissy on and hope that her parents allow this to happen..
What if your GF put in financially for a set amount of time for Prissy seeing as she is the one without the monetary concern?

I think that a King Solomon parting is really the kindest and would be a really selfless act on your gf's part

Plus, there wouldn't be the concern about Nano accepting Prissy eventually...
Prissy sounds as if she might not do well with a cat like Nano (though no one could know this for certain)....

Hope it all goes well..>Please keep us posted.

(Has the roommate said anything to her parents about the possibility? Is there still one?)
post #10 of 24
What I would do is ask the girlfriend who owns the other cat, if your own girlfriend can keep her cat with Prissy. You said your girlfriend can cover costs financially and if she is working 8 plus hours a day the cats can stay together and have comfort.

Yes, I understand that the girlfriend's friend has had this cat a long time, but WE as humans adjust so much better to loss than cats do. We don't stop eating, we don't deficate all over the house, we may cry, weep and miss the feline friend, but in this situation for both cats to stay together with someone who has stability and finances makes the most sense. Moving once is tough on any cat, moving twice or three times, or going into a situation where she has to move home and might not have the welcome mat out for her cat, well the most sense is to keep the two cats together, allow her to visit anytime, and the less disruption in the cat's routine the better it will be. Otherwise, you face the distinct possibility of two cats becoming separated, ill or worse. Not a good situation imo
post #11 of 24
You need to keep Prissy and her littermate together, whether that is with your girlfriend or her other roommate. I have seen cats grieve for more than a year at the loss of their friends. It is very hard on them and it sounds like it could be easily avoided. The roommate left without a cat can always adopt another from a shelter - there are lots of other homeless cats out there (and it is kitten season)!

Just my 2 cents.
post #12 of 24
I had to seperate 2 cats when I moved out of my first apartment. Shalimar(RB) had been abandoned, rescued by my sister, then given to me while she found an apartment. (NO, she never went back. She stayed with me for the rest of her life) Hoboken was rescued by my landlord, but she decided the ficus tree was better as a litter pan, so she came to my roommate at the age of 3 months. After 2 yrs together, I moved out. Luckily, I still lived close enough that I was able to drop Shali at the apartment every day for a week. Then we tapered off over a month's time. On the days she stayed in her new home, she got extra treats and loving when I got home.
post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 
(First, I have been dancing around the name of the littermate because her name is literally "S---ty Kitty". Apparently some problem she had as a young kitten and the name stuck. And Prissy's full name is Prissy B----" so you get the idea. But we can call Prissy's littermate by the abbreviation of "S" since this is an all-ages board.)

Here's what I'm thinking right now...

Prissy and "S" need to stay together.

So who is the better overall cat owner?

And who provides the better longterm situation for a pair of cats?

My girlfriend just told me that she has been buying all the supplies and paying vet bills for both cats for the last two years. But again, the friend spends more time playing with the cats. Argh...hard for me to be impartial.
post #14 of 24
Just my thoughts, but playing with cats is easy. Paying for cats isn't. Lots of people put off vet care, or other issues because they "can't afford it." The two cats can and will play together. Separation causes stress, stress causes illness, illness can lead to death if not promptly taken care of by qualified personnel. I would say your girlfriend is the better caretaker of the two, simply because she meets the needs of a responsible cat owner. Playing with cats anyone can do, paying for cats.......well take a look around the board sometime and see how difficult it gets for those who are not prepared and then follow many threads that have been moved to crossing the bridge
post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 
Without sounding too negative, I agree that cat owners who are not financially secure themselves tend to be far from ideal. It's unfathomable to me that people get cats and then do not have money budgeted to handle basic vet care. I just saw someone have a thread where they ran out of cat food and can't buy more...? It blows my mind that such issues weren't worked out ahead of time.

I am also distrustful of people who use pets to fill voids in their life. My girlfriend's friend might play games with the cats now, but what happens when she gets a boyfriend or starts a family? The cats will no longer have the same priority so it isn't really loving cats -- the cats were being used to fill a void that was eventually filled by something else.

I could get married, have 2.4 kids, take on more responsibilities at work that increases my time commitment, etc. Admittedly things would change, but Nano would still hold the same value to me and still fill the role in my household as pet/companion. I think that's what makes my "style" superior to other people's approaches: Through several phases of my own life I have been able to honor long-term commitments to multiple pets; most of my pets have survived into middle age and longer; none of my pets have ever lacked for food or vet care; I have never had to surrender a pet; if living arrangement changes were required, extensive planning went into making things as smooth as possible; etc.

I am definitely not the best pet owner here, and there are definitely superior and more knowledgable cat owners at this board, but I've reached a point where I have the perspective to predict which people would be better pet owners over the course of time. And honestly, yes, my girlfriend would be the better caretaker for Prissy and "S". Is that what will happen? I'm not so sure. But the #1 thing is clearly keeping thes cats together, so if the friend refuses to give "S" to my girlfriend, then my girlfriend would probably be doing the next best thing by giving Prissy over to her.
post #16 of 24
Thread Starter 
Well, it has been decided: Prissy will be staying together with "S" and they will move away to live with the roommate. The roommate didn't want to give "S" up, and my girlfriend thought Prissy's quality of life would suffer if separated from "S", so she is giving over ownership of Prissy. She would have preferred to keep both of the cats but there are many things to consider -- including her friendship and what both cats mean to her friend/roommate.

They went to Petsmart and my girlfriend spent $300 on supplies -- basically making sure everything is fully stocked and in "new" condition. The cats are going to the vet on Tuesday for an early checkup and all possible things will be done so there are no pending vet-related expenses. All the women will be out of the house by the end of the month and as predicted the roommate is moving back home with her parents next week.

My girlfriend wants to give her friend $1000 cash for unforeseen expenses but doesn't know how to leave the money so it will be saved for cat emergencies and not be eaten up by regular domestic bills. She is already following my suggestion of making the friend promise to contact her if she ever needs to surrender the cats if she can't pay for them or no longer has time for them -- but where it has to be both cats and not just one of them. (I think she should talk to her friend's mom and make her aware of the situation and who has actually been paying for these cats -- and leave the $1000 with the mom -- but my girlfriend thinks that's too aggressive.)

I don't know -- obviously you can tell I have some misgivings but I think my girlfriend is behaving selflessly.

So that's how this story ends -- my girlfriend will be cat-less and sometimes you can't separate cats who've come to depend on each other.
post #17 of 24
I would ask the friend what vet she will be taking the cats to in the future and see if your girlfriend can be added as an emergency contact. Also, you might want to remind the friend to get copies of the cats' medical records when they visit the vet on Tuesday. That way, the new vet won't be working from scratch.
post #18 of 24
Originally Posted by Momofmany
You need to keep Prissy and her littermate together, whether that is with your girlfriend or her other roommate. I have seen cats grieve for more than a year at the loss of their friends. It is very hard on them and it sounds like it could be easily avoided. The roommate left without a cat can always adopt another from a shelter - there are lots of other homeless cats out there (and it is kitten season)!

Just my 2 cents.

My two cents land here, too. I agree that it would be best for the cats (or at least for Prissy!) to stay together. I think they'll be fine in either home--they'll keep each other company if they stay with your girlfriend and she's working. That said, it sounds like Prissy is a sociable cat who would welcome the company of any cat! If they can't stay together, get her a playmate!
post #19 of 24
I agree with cloud_shade.

I think talking to the mom is actually a good idea too, but don't give her the money. Just make her aware that she really wants to help if there are any difficulties.

Just my two-cents.
post #20 of 24
I would be inclined to ensure both the "roommate" and her mother are aware that if there are unforeseen bills relating to the cats that you are willing to pay them if they contact you (your GF). I wouldn't just give either of them $1,000. I would also pay it directly to the vet myself.

Your GF really is selfless in doing this, but it doesn't seem fair. Especially if she is the one that has been and still is paying for food, litter, vets, etc. But I also see how it is better to "leave the door open" and keep things on a friendly basis should it come to pass that this girl is unable to care for the cats then at least she won't be too humiliated to come back and ask your GF for help.

My opinion for what it's worth.
post #21 of 24
Instead of giving money your girlfriend could get the cats pet insurance and pay the bill every month. That way you will know that both cats will be taken care of in case of any emergency. Pet insurance for cats isn't all that expensive. I pay $10 a month.
post #22 of 24
My vet takes money in on pre-paid accounts and the people use it up as they go along. Maybe she could try an arrangement like that with portions of the money at a time.
post #23 of 24
Thread Starter 
She will have a full copy of the ownership records and vet work, so that'll be taken care of.

Pre-paying with a vet is a clever idea, but the problem is that the friend might be living with her parents for two months or five years. It is one of those "temporary" move-in things. Hopefully (for her sake as a human being) the friend will be on her own and established in a new city by the end of the year, but we have no way of knowing if she might be living in Houston or Atlanta.

I'll mention pet insurance to my girlfriend, but personally (and she might have a different opinion) I've never been that impressed with any insurance plan I've seen for pet bills. But good to cover all the bases and that is a new idea to consider.

Offering to be included as a secondary or emergency contact with whichever vet she eventually affiliates with sounds like a solid plan.

With this decision made, my girlfriend knows she is no longer the owner but still wants Prissy to have a full and happy life. However to be blunt, since she will now have very limited input into Prissy's future, my girlfriend wants to limit her exposure and not have this become a point of contention with her friend.

Even if I've implied some negative things in this thread, this roommate/friend is a very capable person and once she matures a bit and becomes more responsible (which I'm sure this wakeup call of moving back home with parents will accomplish), she will pull herself together and give both "S" and Prissy happy lives as loved pets.

Thanks for everyone's comments and I will pass along summary to my girlfriend.
post #24 of 24
Thread Starter 
Here's the end of the story...

My girlfriend took the mother aside but she already knew about who had been paying the bills. The mother said she'd encouraged her daughter (=the friend/roommate) to give the cats away, seeing as how she couldn't care for herself let alone some cats. (They are taking the "tough love" approach with their daughter at this point.) But she added that offering to pay the vet bills wasn't a good idea and that her daughter would be learning to take care of her responsibilities. That pretty much closed up the conversation.

The friend now has "S" and Prissy as she lives at home with her parents. My girlfriend has moved into a new short-term apartment and is pet-less for the time being. Hopefully all of these changes work out for the best!
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