Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Into the Social Whirlpool

The interactions of my cats interests me. Their relationships change from time to time. I wish I could write that my cats are all friends, but in fact they are not. The two who are closest are Tungsten and Renn. Why those two became chummy, I don’t know, but they will groom each other and lie next to each other, even against each other, which no other cat does, with them or with another. They frequently sniff each other, Renn always initiating the action; Tungsten could probably do without it, but my big boy seems to like being near the orange one.

Tucker’s relationship with Renn is complex. When he first came to stay with me, Tucker bullied Renn somewhat. The former is older, so it was a natural hierarchy. Then, Renn usurped that position, and the poor roly poly was pushed to the bottom of the totem pole. A recent scene (comical, from one point of view, not from another) demonstrated this the other day. I had to trim some hair on Renn’s bum. Considering the length of his fur, he is very good about keeping it clean. But this time, there was some litter stuck where it shouldn’t be. My big boy hates having his bum trimmed. That’s understandable. He groaned and growled but endured the humiliation. As soon as it was over, I opened the bathroom door to release him. The first cat he met in the corridor was Tucker, whom he slapped half a dozen times before stalking away. The roly poly one was left hurt and bemused. As the bottom of the totem pole, this is his lot. Yet he continues to act the child, rushing up the cat-tree when Renn is at the top, causing screams and threats to issue from my big boy. Tucker knows his place - and uses it to cause trouble. He will also poke Josie when she isn’t looking; a battle between those two would probably resemble that ‘executive toy’ that has the balls on strings knocking against each other.

Josie, my loner, would not suffer from being an only cat. She has become much friendlier with me through the years, and her purr is a ready one now. She does, however, like to play chase with Tucker, but almost solely when I come home from work. They did play one other time, near bed-time, but that was unique. The strange thing is that at most other times, Tucker will hiss and swat at my Chubs. This, I believe, has little to do with personal animosity. It is a transference of sorts, and occurs whenever a new foster-cat is brought into the house. This round began with Bear-Bear’s arrival. It is deminishing, but remains.

Bear-Bear has thrown some confusion into the household. His easy-going nature has allowed him early permission to roam free at all hours. He doesn’t sleep on the bed - yet - but he can go anywhere he likes. He is more of a pacifist even than Josie. The Great White will defend herself vigorously if assaulted, but Bear-Bear will turn and veer away from any sign of trouble. His mere presence has shaken the norm, yet the perma-cats are adapting.

Part of that adaptation comes in showing him his place. Tungsten is already ceasing to growl and hiss every time she sees him. It must have been tiring to show hostility to a cat who was largely indifferent to it. But just to make clear who is top-cat, the orange one will wail her dissatisfaction at certain times, lest we forget that she is displeased at the interloper’s existence. Josie, who was the first to show that she was unconcerned with Bear-Bear, regressed somewhat when he was allowed complete freedom, and hid under the armchair while he walked about. Tucker sees an opportunity to move up a rank, and periodically tells the guest-cat where he belongs. Renn is split in regard to the newcomer, now usually greeting him with a sniff but still warning him when Bear-Bear inadvertently makes him feel trapped. Yet I would not be surprised if those two become friends.

Yes, the society created by my cats for themselves is a simple yet complicated one. This paradox seems to come naturally to an animal so sensitive that it can become ill from stress when its routine is disrupted, yet appears constantly to be changing its habits. I myself am partly to blame for this zoological whirlpool, though: after all, I started out with one cat, six years ago. Today, I live with five.


  1. I have nothing but awe and admiration for those humans who can remain unflappable in the face of tense kitty dynamics.

    Even with my two, and with Derry being second as far as Nicki's concerned, there sometimes is a temporary shift in who is aggressor and who is recipient of the aggression and dominance. But fortunately, it doesn't often get out of hand, or paw, as it were. :-)

  2. It is really interesting to see how cats interact. I have three brothers that always get along with each other and the Mom knows who they are too and still bosses them around. Cat politics is very interesting. Take care.

  3. We all get along. Kinda.
    Toby and I were the first here and now there are 4 more. I get along with everycat. Rumpy is a bully and no one likes him. Buddy is the elder loner. Fitz if a wild child and the only female. Buttons is now a big Man-Cat from a shy little kitten.
    Meow it can be compli-cat-ed

  4. Is that the band from a milk jug on Bear Bear's head?