My foster-cat Parker was the one, other than myself, most affected by Echo’s brief stay with us. This was largely due to her occupation of the library for much of the time. Prior to her planned integration with my beasts, she was restricted to the bathroom, and then, to give her more space and views, to the library. While the kitten was in the latter room, Parker was free to roam the apartment, as he is most of the time when I am present. He hardly goes into the library when he is able to go elsewhere.
One would think then that my sturdy-boy would be untroubled by the introduction of the new kitten. One would be wrong. For the first week or more, Parker seemed to be in a bad mood. He would grumble, often following this with a hiss. Ironically, he sounds when doing this much like Tucker when the latter is annoyed, as he sometimes is at Parker. The orange boy hissed at Echo’s smell and, though he remained friendly, he was clearly out of sorts. He continued to eat and play and cuddle, but there was something different, as though he were preoccupied. He purred less. And he was aggressive with Tucker.
I know what it was, at least in part. After his first couple of weeks with me, Parker stopped following the perma-cats into the library when they entered the room. He became blasé about his new roommates exploring ‘his’ space. But he was the new boy. Then along comes the tiny interloper. Now, Parker is an established member of the household, and this kitten had the gall to live in ‘his’ room for hours on end. She even used his litter-box.
Parker continued to eat and sleep in the library. I wanted to maintain his habits to ensure regularity of rest and digestion. But he would often lie at the closed door while Echo was inside, and the time that he thought I was feeding his bedtime snack to the new girl, he became quite upset, even though his food was to come on schedule an hour later.
I understood this and tried to mitigate it with more attention. And if Echo had been integrated with the others, Parker’s attitude would slowly have changed, as the kitten would not have been restricted to the library so much. But Parker would not be mollified under the conditions that prevailed.
Now that Echo has moved on to broader horizons, Parker is making up for lost time. He has never been so affectionate, even as friendly as he has been in the past. He jumps up on the couch after dinner to lean on my lap, and wanders over to me at irregular intervals, just to arch his back against my leg and ask for attention. He lies against my feet while I wash the dishes. And his purr is back. He purrs and kneads the air with his paws and is happy once more.
At the time, there was little more I could do for Parker. I have noticed this with many of the resident cats who were confronted with a new addition to the household, going all the way back to Tungsten’s reaction to Josie. They recover, of course; even the most sensitive cats, like Tucker, though they may not like newcomers, eventually settle down once more. But it shows how affected they can be by change, perhaps how insecure they are. Parker may have thought he was being replaced: a new orange cat, younger, squeakier - this year’s model. And I had to spend quite a bit of my time with Echo.
If I need once more to shelter a new cat in the already crowded, if cosy, apartment, I will be better prepared for the challenge of it. I will be prepared for the Parker Effect.