Saturday, September 28, 2013

On Being Catty

Smokey adored his baby kitten from the minute we came in the door with him. As the young Hobbes grew from his roly-poly kitten stage to his all-teeth-and-claws stage we watched poor patient Smokey ambushed, attacked, jumped on, bitten, chewed, swatted and clawed. Hobbes would pounce on Smokey, grab a mouthful of Smokey's three-inch long hair and yank it out. Smokey would yelp, cry, roll the baby over and rough him up but always with a soft mouth, a sheathed claw.

Hobbes got bigger and Smokey began to hide from the little monster. Knowing we keep the bathroom door closed to protect the shower curtain from the kitten-monkey Smokey would ask to go in the bathroom, where he would jump on the bath bench and sleep away the afternoon in peace.
Smokey and his daddy

Play became rougher and Smokey began to hiss whenever the kitten came near. We began to worry that we'd made a mistake. Smokey is huge, but so so patient, he's so quiet, so laid-back. Hobbes is aggressive, a feline pit bull, he takes what he wants, he's ready to attack if you try to pick him up. All of us are pounced on, bitten and scratched. He's defiant when told to stop doing something, whether it's chewing an electrical cord or scratching the sofa.

We look at each other and worry that Hobbes will be the dominant cat, that he will make Smokey's life hell, or that we will have an on-going war from now on, a power struggle. We've had that before and it's no fun as two cats duke it out every night over who is king of the household and who rides in the sidecar.

By this point Hobbes was stinking of testosterone, but I was not eager to rush him to the vet. We'd had two kittens neutered at six months and it was too young. Their systems hadn't developed fully yet, and one had bladder problems all his life, and at age 15 had to have life-or-death emergency surgery to reroute his urinary tract. He suffered such pain. He'd been too young when neutered, even though our vet said they were ready.

This time we decided we would put up with the stink until Hobbes turned nine months and we knew he was old enough. After the surgery it took a good two weeks for the testosterone to clear out of Li'l Stinky. They were both subdued for a few days after the vet's visit. I suspect the vaccines made them a little out of sorts, and while you'd think the surgery would have slowed Hobbes down it did not.

After three or four days the fighting started again, but not as vigorously as before. Now more like the earlier kitten play, no one was being cornered and attacked like before. But guess what? The laid-back Smokey quickly exerted dominance over the young upstart. He does have a 10 pound weight advantage in a fight, but there hasn't been much fighting. Smokey held Hobbes down a couple of times and walloped him with his fists, chewed on him a bit, not enough to scratch him, or break the skin, threw him off the tallest platform of the cat-tree, which is six feet tall, and Hobbes said, "Okay, okay, I get it, you're the boss."

It's subtle. Hobbes waits until Smokey finishes eating. If Hobbes is lying on the bed or in daddy's chair, Smokey says, "Get down, that's my place." A few minutes later Hobbes will slip back and lie beside Smokey, and that's okay. Smokey will make room, snuggle up, and put an arm around Hobbes, but Smokey takes the best place, the first place.

Hobbes no longer bites and scratches. Smokey has apparently read him the rule book. When we say, "Don't scratch the sofa," he stops. He's a good boy now.

1 comment:

Paisely Brook said...

I love it and you have such a beautiful cat. I always tell people that animals always have a way of figuring out the pecking order.