Bringing Garfield Home

 

Garfield is my second cat. Similar to my first cat, Garfield was a stray cat, roaming around in the neighbourhood, living off scraps and the occasional careless mouse or bird. In 2012, around three years after my first cat had passed, two ginger cats appeared in the neighbourhood. The nature in which they arrived, the bond between the two, their friendliness with strangers and preference for dry cat food suggested they were previously domesticated cats from the same place. They stuck on and made the neighbourhood their home. Three months in, one of the two cats was removed by AVA for being a nuisance with its constant meowing. AVA probably caught the wrong cat as I recalled Garfield to be a lot more vocal than the other. Garfield stayed on and began to frequent my bedroom’s window sill (my parents’ home is on the first floor). He often spent hours in the evening watching me work on school projects or meddle with my PC, but he never ventured into the house. A few months later, a group of volunteers brought Garfield for sterilisation and he had the tip of his ear snipped as a result. He continued to perch on my window sill for a few more weeks before my parents and I decided to bring him in and give him a home.

Garfield settled into my parents’ place seamlessly like how my previous cat did. He enjoyed the freedom of entering and leaving the house whenever he wanted. To him, the home was a safe place to eat and sleep while the outdoors was his playground (and also his litter box). Things went well until 2017 when Garfield decided not to return home. He was still in the neighbourhood but he decided to make the void deck of an adjacent block of flats his home. We were not quite sure why he did so but there were a few theories. First, there were indications that other neighbourhood cats were trying to drive him out of my parents’ block. They were probably eyeing his food supply in my parents’ place. Unlike my previous cat, Garfield was not a good fighter and he probably lost his territory psychologically. Second, it was clear that he was afraid of my mom. Third, a cat lover in the adjacent block had taken to feeding strays. These factors put together probably caused Garfield to decide to “move out”. We decided to let him go and just kept an occasional eye on him to ensure he was healthy. I moved out of my parents home in end 2018 and thought about bringing Garfield along. But I decided against it because I did not think Garfield would enjoy moving from endless roaming grounds to a 90 square metre enclosed space. I thought it would be better to wait until Garfield got older when he would likely be more amenable to trading off freedom for security.

This year, my wife’s desire to have a pet could no longer be contained. And if we were to get a pet, my preference was to give Garfield first dibs given that I am officially his owner. (Garfield is microchipped.) Having pets is a life long commitment and I wanted to be there to see his life through, especially in his silver years. So, my wife and I planned out his introduction to our home. For several weekends, we started bringing Garfield home. This involved carrying him home and having him wander around our home for a few hours. Garfield adapted rather quickly. On his second visit, he started eating. On his third, he was comfortable enough to take a nap. We decided that it was time to see if he could make it through the night in an enclosed space. This was never done before even during the years when he lived at my parents’ place. He would always go out at night in search of adventure (mostly mice and birds). To ensure he could make it through the night, we needed to have everything he needed, most importantly – meshed up windows, a litter box and a scratch post. One of my key considerations was to ensure Garfield did not add to the maintenance work of our home which included not destroying the furniture. I also did not want any additions to affect the aesthetics of our home.

We decided on a mesh window roller for the service yard as this was the only set of windows we would constantly leave open. After toying with the idea of a robotic litter box with automated cleaning, we decided to start with a simple box because we were unsure if he could adapt. If he failed to adapt, we would have to return him to my parents’ neighbourhood, and we did not want to be stuck with an expensive unused litter box. We could not find a suitable scratch post that was sturdy enough for a 6.5kg meatball to pounce on and remain upright. To work around this, we ensured he had little access to scratch-able furniture. Thankfully most of our furniture was not fabric or leather based and the only potential problem was our sofa. We dotted the edges with axe oil (the minty smell drives cats away), covered it and sprinkled the seats with items so that he would not even remotely consider approaching the sofa. The measures worked out better than we thought. Garfield took to the litter box almost immediately probably because he could not find any where else with soil. We had decided to fill his littler box with garden soil (procured from a flower shop) because this was close to what he was familiar with. My wife and I cheered when Garfield did his first business at 2am on his first night at our home.

A few issues did crop up. While Garfield was having really good naps in the day, he was finding it hard to be confined at night. There was constant meowing which lasted for three weeks. My wife and I toggled between allowing him into the room, going out to the living room to accompany him and outright ignoring him. He has since largely adapted. His meowing spurts are now limited to when he wants to enter or leave the bedroom. We plan to install a cat flap on our bedroom door to allow him to enter/exit on his own. Garfield also needed somewhere above ground to perch just like all cats do. We decided after three weeks (when we were sure he was adapting well) to install a platform in the service yard above his litter box. It also came with a scratching platform which he took to immediately. This is now one of his favourite spots especially when he hides from his sole enemy in our home – our robot vacuum cleaners. His other favourite spot is the study desk. We later also repurposed a scratch mat into a scratch post by wrapping it around the dinning table leg. Thankfully, Garfield has limited his scratching to just these areas and our furniture remains unharmed. We were also concerned about possible smell from his litter box. While the smell was barely noticeable (cat litter is indeed magical), we decided to ensure constant active ventilation by installing a small fan which pushes stale air out of the service yard every hour for 15 minutes .

Garfield’s smooth transition into becoming a fully domesticated cat was aided by the ongoing COVID-19 situation. My wife now works from home which means Garfield has company 24/7. Unlike my first cat, Garfield likes to have people around him. My wife is obviously delighted to finally realise her childhood dream of having a pet cat. I am just glad that I can see him through the remaining years of his life. We do not know how old he exactly is. His vets estimated that he was around 2 years of age when he was first brought into my parents’ home in 2012. This means he has to be at least 10 years old by now. Being fully domesticated will likely extend his lifespan and his health has been tip top so far. Going forward, we hope to have him adapt to a harness and leash so that we can bring him outdoors. He appears to have already forgotten about the joys of being outdoors but we are sure he will want to relive them.