Hey! Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans and Happy Thursday to the rest of y’all. I have animal related questions if you are done with your pie.
My animals (two dogs and two cats) were very used to roaming pretty wild and free out in the country — especially the cats who were rescued from feral barncat mothers specifically to be mousers and live out in our shop. This whole suburban neighborhood / tiny backyard scene is stressing everyone out.
We knew going from six acres with endless pastures and minimal cars / vehicles to a postage-stamp sized backyard was going to be a big adjustment, but we figured we’d just keep them inside more. Being inside with us was typically a treat for them, so we figured no big deal. Ha. Ha. Ha. HA. They basically went bananas. They couldn’t understand why they weren’t going outside to their nice heated doghouse (it stayed in ID because it was basically bigger than our entire backyard) and were instead supposed to lay down on the carpet and sleep.
They started obsessively licking the carpet and sofa all over, like every INCH. You could distract them for a little while and then they’d go right back to it. Later, they’d barf up a ball of carpet fibers, dog hair, and partially digested dog food. It was disgusting.
The vet said it was stress and since they’ve always been outside dogs they probably ought to stay outside dogs even in a smaller yard. So we tried to make them as comfortable out there as possible – we got them Igloo doghouses with heating pads inside and constructed new shelter from the wind and snow, and still have them come inside multiple times a day, take them for walks, and play with them, but they are so confused and have started displaying other behavior problems… like barking, crying, and getting kind of growly / snappy.
Azzo especially is barking more. He’s driving the neighbors batty and ruining naptime for our neighbor’s kids. Being so close to our neighbors is a new experience so I’m especially anxious not to mess it up. Some folks in the neighborhood suggested bark collars, but we hated the idea of shocking our already stressed out pups. And it only took a little research to scare me off the method for good.
We are trying training, but he is so bewildered, we’re not getting very far yet… and I don’t see how teaching him “speak” and “quiet” will help if he’s just hanging out back there without us — especially during the night (though we will keep trying, of course). I ordered a supposedly kinder bark collar that sprays Citronella instead of delivering an electric shock, but the reviews are very mixed. Anyone have some experience with any of this? I’m afraid even Citronella is going to be confusing and cause more stress for Azzo.
The cats were pretty freaked out, too. They had diarrhea for the entire first week we were in the new place. So. Horrible. Between the dogs barfing and the cats pooing and the whole move in general, I cried A LOT. We very intentionally rescued Dusty specifically because she was a barn cat with awesome mousing skills. She tolerates us but is far from a cuddly house cat. She wants to be outside working and is losing her crapballs cooped up in here all the time. She is tearing up the carpets and furniture and has taken to chewing holes in blankets (as I type she is methodically shredding an envelope — it is mildly creepy). We have gotten loads of toys but it’s just not the same as having the freedom to prowl and hunt. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that she got out soon after we moved in and was missing for 36 hours in 10 degrees below 0 temperatures with horizontal wind-snow going. I sobbed my eyes out (crying has been a recurring theme lately) and spent hours searching for her, certain we were going to find a body on the side of the road. I was stunned when she came trotting back to the house like it was no big deal. Maybe I should have a little more faith in her and let her wander?
Kevin was a barn cat with wild parents too, but we got him a little too young. He cried for his first few weeks with us and the only course of action was to mother him. He is now a complete baby and is useless in mousing. I’m pretty sure he thinks his sole purpose in life is to be a very plush, very beautiful decoration. As such, he has adjusted much quicker to in-the-house-life, but is still meowing at the door to go out all the time. When we’ve let them out with supervision they roll in the snow. I didn’t think about it, but going from living outside to inside a heated house is probably stressful just temperature-wise. They are drinking loads more water than they used to.
I got them new ID tags, but still feel terrified to let them wander around a new city with so many cars racing about. I think they probably need it, though.
My other problem with the cats mostly indoors is that my allergies are now INSANE. When they lived outside and only visited for some snuggles, my eyes itched but it wasn’t too bad. But now it’s like I have a perpetual, never ending, horrific man-cold. The Benadryl I take for the Urticaria helps a lot, but them living in here 100% of the time isn’t ideal for either of us. I do intend to get them set up in the garage with access to outside soon, but I’ve got to finish going through boxes in there first… I’m also terrified a the thought of running them over. I am fretting that I should have found homes for them in Idaho where their surroundings would have stayed the same. I would have cried like a baby, but maybe they would have been happier? My husband would never have considered that for the dogs (they are practically like children to him), but honestly, did we just do the world’s stupidest thing by moving these country creatures to the city?
I’ve got the dogs in here for the night and Azzo will NOT stop whining and crying at the door. He punctuates the crying with those sharp, stressed out / worried barks and it’s making Lucy start licking. But if I let him outside he whines in the corner of the yard and licks the fence like it’s made of beef. OH MY WORD. And to think I was so worried about the KIDS adjusting!
** Apologies to Randy Glasbergen for the cartoon edits in red.