Their own kind

Let’s play! Rescue pup Annabelle, center, challenges her buddy Chance to a game of rope tug on Tuesday, July 31. The two dogs, adopted from the Stanislaus County Animal Shelter, joined a pair of kittens, two humans, a couple of elderly hens and some fish in a “blended family” that works, at least partly because all of the animals in the household have someone of their own kind to interact with.

Not long ago, we found ourselves without any animals in the house.

At all.

For the past two decades, we’ve shared our space with various animal friends, and to walk around the place without seeing anyone in their usual spots was jarring.

So it was time to get a cat. A cat. Singular, as in “one, only.”

It happened to be prime time for kittens, and this writer found a litter on Facebook that had been born to a wild cat in somebody’s barn. The farmer’s daughter had them mostly tamed.

As luck would have it, a would-be adopter bailed; there were two.

Leaving one behind wasn’t even an option.

But would it make sense to take them both? Dealing with two cats had to be way more trouble than just one, right?

Fortunately, that assumption turned out to be wrong: from the minute they set paws in the door, they’ve kept each other occupied, while providing near-constant entertainment.

So now there were two tiny little puffs of fluff chasing each other, running flat-out; using their claws to climb up things; wrestling as hard as they can – learning how to be cats.

Playing together, they’ve learned how to stalk, pounce and fight.

Far better for them to figure all of that out safely, testing their nerve and abilities against each other, before they actually need those skills to defend themselves in the real world.

They spend several hours over the course of the day romping and wrestling, interspersed with snuggling up together for nice, long naps.

It’s amazing, how effortless it’s been to have them around. It’s hard to imagine being responsible for keeping a single kitten busy for all those romp-and-wrestles – let alone helping them learn how to defend themselves!

Thank goodness there are two!

They keep each other entertained, and they get all the exercise they need. Both of those things would have been pretty tough to provide, if there were only one of them.

And as the vet pointed out, animals just can’t interact with humans the way they can with their own kind.

Despite the strong bonds we can develop, we just can’t be pals to our animal friends like another dog or cat can be.

Imagine waking up on a strange planet, where no one speaks out loud, and all the rules are different.

Worst of all, you’re there by yourself – none of your family or friends, or even any strangers who look like you, are there. It’d sure be nice, and probably pretty comforting, to find someone like yourself (especially somebody around your age).

In any case, things were going so swimmingly about a month into the two-kitty adventure that it was time to add another furry face or two – this time, of the canine persuasion.

A visit to the pound netted two adolescent puppies, one of them feral.

Maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising that dogs can be wild, but it seemed odd – she looks just like any other dog.

But she was so afraid of people that she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, walk. She had to be carried to the car, and carried into the backyard.

But one look in those eyes, and I couldn’t leave her in that cage.

She hid in the bushes, the first several days.

As with the kittens, it’s great to have two dogs: the boy dog has helped the wild girl find the courage to come out from the bushes and get to know everyone.

It’s been a very gradual thing: helping her get used to eye contact; get close enough to take a treat; relax into being petted.

And, finally, the biggest reward: she loves to play, even more than the boy dog does, and she’s gotten comfortable enough to romp a bit with us two-leggeds.

If the kittens are experts at rough-and-tumble, the puppies are world champs!

A bit hard on the landscaping (well, at least there’s less grass to mow, for the moment), but it’s impossible not to laugh as they chase each other around the yard doing about 90; romp and wrestle; tug on a rope.

And then, tuckered out, they fall asleep, always close together.

As all four of these animal friends grow up, they’re learning to play together. There’s peace, partly because nobody has energy they can’t burn off – there’s always someone to chase or wrestle with; four-legged or otherwise.

So here we all are: Two humans who delude ourselves into thinking that we’re running things, a pair of kittens whose names are all but on the deed, and a couple of almost-grown dogs who have become fast friends with everyone.

With four young animal friends romping around the place, things are a lot livelier. Yet it’s calm too, because everyone has a friend of their own kind.

So, friendly advice: If you’re adopting an animal friend, please consider doing both of you the kindness of giving him or her a pal of their own.

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