Tonawanda News

December 16, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Animals can be wallflowers, too

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — We’ve been at the new house for a little more than a month. The house is nowhere near being finished, but right after Thanksgiving and weeks before Christmas seemed like the only time when a housewarming party could fit in. 

Since housewarming events are suppose to take place close to the actual move-in date, we were running out of time. I invited coworkers and friends and told them that their presence was the only thing needed. I ordered five cheese pizzas and prepared sautéed onions, mushrooms and peppers, pineapple, jalapenos, pepperoncinis and tomatoes. It was a pizza buffet! 

As more and more people came into the house, the less I saw of my critter companions. 

I had to roll the cockatoo to a back room to help her stay calm and equally important: quiet. One by one my cats went under the bed in the farthest bedroom away from the action. The hermit crab tucked in his shell and the savannah monitor went from basking on top of the cardboard box to underneath it.

Merriment and consumption carried on for a few hours. The crowd migrated toward the food and three people were on the futon, but most people were standing by the breakfast counter or kitchen area. 

Princeton, my British short-hair cat, bravely came out from under the bed, walked down the hall through the people and jumped up on the brand new sectional that was not being occupied. The crowd stopped chatting and all looked at Princeton and smiled. It appeared that he was unsatisfied with the crowd, but they were all beneath him so he was to carry on with what he does every other night: lounge.

He laid on the sectional, looking like a dense loaf of bread, as the guests quickly moved by him. It was as if everything was in fast motion, except for Princeton. He was being an antisocial wallflower. He laid curled up on the couch looking away purposefully from the company. 

At one point someone left a rolled up napkin on the window sill, which made Princeton very upset. He got up from his warm orb of fur and gently placed one paw on the dirty napkin. He then turned to the crowd, his paw still touching the napkin, with his eyes squinting as if he was scolding them.

Princeton has always been a little bit sassy. Three Christmases ago I adopted Julian the cat from the SPCA serving Erie County and they had a BOGO deal. So the following month, we adopted Princeton. We don’t like to mention it a lot, but Princeton was the free one. 

A small group of friends went to the SPCA and helped me look for a second cat. I thought it would be amusing to have two cats that looked alike. We found Nigel a grey with black stripes cat that looked identical to Julian, except for one large detail: Julian was a slender younger cat and Nigel was a larger, older round ball.

Nigel had runny eyes, and looked a little bit like a loner. He was missing the lower teeth between his canines and had two nearly invisible scars on his chin presumably from a cat fight out in the field that they found him. Due to the lack of lower teeth, his tongue would periodically slip out of his mouth. The SPCA volunteer said that we should take him into the cat room so we could get a sense of his temperament.

My small party and I took the cat in a kennel to the play room. The attendant opened the door for the kennel and allowed us some private time. Nigel cautiously walked out and started purring enthusiastically. To check his temperament I started rubbing his head and his back. After a second, he stood on his two back legs and slapped me with his front paws. My good friend Tracy said, “This one is perfect.”

I adopted Princeton Nigel that day and he has been a great companion animal ever since. This holiday season don’t overlook the wallflowers — animals or people. The extra time it takes to become social with them makes the relationship more special.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Please email your questions to, or search for “Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan” on Facebook.