Excuse me while I drown in a puddle of joy and guilt

I haven’t written about this yet because of the guilt. It is my constant companion. There have been other topics I’ve wanted to blog about, but every time I open up my laptop to write out my thoughts, I realize that until I write about Sebastian, I can’t write about anything else, and until I confront the guilt and call it what it is, I can’t write about Sebastian.

This is Sebastian.

It isn’t what you think: Sachen is still alive and with us.

OK, now it IS what you think: a disaster.

Yeah. Sachen hates him. If you’ve ever met Sachen, read about him on this blog, followed him on Twitter, or just thought his name into the universe, you knew this would happen. Andy and I knew Sachen would resist any feline additions to our household; that’s why we haven’t gotten another cat even though we are both believers in a two-cat home. Sachen is old and set in his ways, and we think he deserves not to have the game changed on him at this late stage.

And then we drank the Kool-Aid and it was the worst flavor: cute stray kitten flavor.

If you like cats even a little bit, you’ll like Sebastian. He’s friendly without being pushy. He purrs and lets you pet him. Look, I know this is what a person might call normal cat behavior but after living with Sachen’s three-strokes-and-you’re-out rule for so long, petting a cat leisurely while he purrs and doesn’t act like he’s doing me a huge favor is a new thing for me. He was nine or ten months old when he moved in and he has kitten-level energy. This means that he runs around spastically for no reason, and sometimes he chews on things like slippers and my sweat pants.

Sachen is not a chewer, but the cats do have similarities. Sebastian appears to have some Maine Coon in him, especially in the cheeks and in the, um, size. He is about a year old by now and already taller than pretty much any cat I’ve ever seen. We haven’t had a chance to do a good side-by-side comparison, but there is no way that Sebastian isn’t bigger than Sachen.

I like big cats and I cannot lie.

We worked on integrating them slowly and the results ran the gamut from cautious, feigned disinterest to full-on, fur-flying fracas. I had one glorious afternoon nearly two months ago wherein I watched a movie while Sachen slept on the couch at my feet and Sebastian slept on the floor right next to the couch. (It looks like I put the couch on top of Sebastian but I assure you that I did not.)

I hold on to that memory when they are fighting through Sebastian’s door in the middle of the night. I don’t have any recent memories to hold on to because our integration has been temporarily stalled because of rabies. We found a dead bat in the basement with Sebastian and because we are responsible pet owners, we took it to Animal Care and Control to be tested for rabies. The bat was too decomposed to be tested so we had to quarantine Sebastian just in case the bat had rabies. In case you’re wondering, waiting to see if your new kitten is going to die of rabies in your guest room is not the most pleasant way to spend a month.

The quarantine is over now, but Sachen is so resistant to his presence that we still have to keep them separated, mostly for Sachen’s health. Saturday, there was a major brawl and it took Sachen a full hour to return his breathing to normal. He was straight-up hyperventilating from a combination of full-on hatred for Sebastian and the physical strain of chasing and fighting with somebody 17 years younger (more like 70 in cat years).

This is where most of my guilt comes in. Sachen does not deserve this. Yes, he’s just being mean, but it isn’t as if he falsely represented himself. He has made it very clear that he is happiest when it is just the three of us. He doesn’t even like company. Why would he want another cat living here? We knew who he was and we tried to make him change. He trusted us to make his life the best it can possibly be, and we have done that for eight years. It isn’t fair for us to put new expectations on him now. On Saturday, after the brawl, I picked up Sachen and he didn’t resist. All of his energy was spent catching his breath so his little body was pretty much limp in my arms. I laid him on the bed next to me and petted him slowly while he worked on breathing. Eventually, he got sick of my attention, and I knew he was going to be OK. Those moments before I knew it were agony, though. I apologized to him over and over, but he doesn’t blame us. If anything, he is nicer to us since Sebastian moved in. He can see that we like Sebastian, but he doesn’t seem to understand that we are the ones who have allowed him to live in our house. This reaction just compounds my guilt.

On top of the Sachen-related guilt, I feel bad that this is the life we have offered Sebastian so far. He getting increasingly impatient with being locked in that room. He cries at the door sometimes. It’s a quiet, plaintive cry that just breaks my heart. These crying bouts don’t last long, maybe five minutes or so once or twice a day. They last longer in my heart. Usually, Sachen will hear him cry and rush to the door to paw and growl at him until he stops crying. I can only imagine that Sebastian walks away from the door dejectedly and climbs on to the futon to rest his chin on his paw and be sad.

Like I said earlier, I’ve always wanted two cats, and we really couldn’t ask for a better second cat than Sebastian. He is willing to submit to Sachen’s authority, if only Sachen would stop growling at him. And as far as a pet goes, he is top notch. He happily eats the additive-free food we feed him and uses his litter box without issue. Last night he laid on my lap and watched TV with me for over an hour. My leg actually fell asleep. Sachen will snuggle me like that about twice a year, but Sebastian indicated that he’d be willing to snuggle pretty much every night. So I also feel guilty because of how much I like Sebastian and enjoy his company—and his yawns.

However, I think I still like Sachen better. Everything about Sebastian is perfect, but I still prefer Sachen. I want to be fair in the distribution of my affection, but Sachen gets most of it. For one thing, Sebastian is locked in his room most of the time, and for another, my heart and my mind are just used to pouring all their love energy on to Sachen. There is room for Sebastian, too, but the current routine makes it hard because I am resistant to locking Sachen in his bedroom so that Sebastian can come out and play. I guess eight years of accommodating Sachen are starting to bite me you-know-where.

I alternate between hope and despair about the whole thing. Sometimes, I can imagine a future where they get along and I sit and read in the overstuffed armchair in my office with Sachen on my lap and Sebastian on one of the arms or the back of the chair or I come home from work to find them sitting together in the front window. And then sometimes, usually in the middle of the night when worrying has consumed me and I can’t sleep, I imagine that Sachen will die of a heart attack right there in the hall outside Sebastian’s room or Sebastian will go nuts from being locked up so long, tear apart the guest room, and strangle himself in the mini-blinds. Even in my least dark moments, I can’t imagine that I will ever be able to leave the house without first locking one of the cats in a room for their own safety.

For a long time, I avoided writing this post because all of the angles I entertained felt false. I could write about how great it is that we have a new cat and fill the post with photos of Sebastian’s particular cuteness. Or I could write about how we let a stray cat come inside and live in our guest room and now everything is sad. Either angle is true in its own way, as you can see from this post wherein I didn’t make any decisions about what angle to use. I wrote from all the angles, even the uncomfortable ones, and I’m still unsure. I hesitate to do what is amounting to complaining about something that I brought on myself. We knew what would happen if we got another cat, but let’s face it. Sebastian isn’t just another cat. I mean, look at that face.