Lucy came to live with us five months ago. A few months before she was born I read John Bradshaw’s wonderful Cat Sense and nodded along as he described how cats are naturally solitary and territorial. With a few exceptions (mama cats who co-raise families with their sisters or daughters; siblings who have grown up together and have no resources to fight over), cats have to be actively socialised to live with humans, dogs, and especially other cats.
I experienced cats’ anxiety about other cats four years ago when I adopted a six-week-old kitten one month after I had adopted an adult cat. Cynthia came to me with some severe separation anxiety, and I misguidedly hoped having another four-legged beast in the house might alleviate some of her anxiety. But instead she growled and swatted at kitten Lady Jane about ten seconds into their first meeting and then, once I had separated the two, crawled onto the kitchen table, muscles stiff, growling constantly. Two weeks passed before she would deign to let me pet her (at which point she abruptly returned to her happy purring usual self — as long as Lady Jane was out of the room).
After a month I was able to let the cats into the same room with each other; after about two months the pair became friends, napping together, playing cat tag, and grooming each other.
So this time I didn’t adopt a kitten for the sake of the other cats but because I had fallen in love with her and her littermates (her foster parents are friends who live down the street from me); I spent about six weeks considering how stressful the experience would be for the older cats. I talked about adopting a kitten with my vet. And I expected cat drama.
And there’s been drama. Most of it caused by Lucy who is proving to be terrifyingly smart and mischievous. I hadn’t entirely expected Lady Jane to be so unforgiving of the new arrival though — she’s always been around cats, after all. But seeing her response to Lucy has reminded me that she was a feral kitten when I adopted her and that she usually takes a while to adjust to new circumstances. And so even though Cynthia mostly accepted Lucy after two months — giving her friendly nose touches and only growling when the rather exuberant kitten jumps on her head — Lady Jane is still wary. But very recently she’s started allowing obnoxious little Lucyfur to stand within a foot of her without provocation.
Yesterday was the first day I managed to get a (poor quality) picture of all three together:
But Lucy really wants to be closer:
Lady Jane promptly left after Lucy tried to inveigle her way into cat club. There’s still a lot of work left to do here. In the meantime, I’m enjoying Lucy’s adorable mischief.
12 October 2014
Bradshaw, John. Cat Sense. New York: Basic Books, 2013.