Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Parker Effect

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.


  1. Sounds like it was best for all that Echo go to another foster home. I wonder how long Parker's extra affection will last--if he'll return to his "normal" state after some time passes and he's assured that he's *not* being replaced, or if this extra affection IS his new normal. :-)

    1. That’s a good question, but I think some behaviour may have changed permanently. He has been ‘singing’ in the evenings, as Renn and Tucker do, wandering about rooms and whooping a bit. He’s not done that before. But who knows what the fellow will do next.

    2. Hahaha! Parker is quite the character! I would love to hear him whooping it up! It's so fun to watch our pets and see the personalities they develop over time. I enjoy reading your blog, John, and the antics that happen. I even learn something new. Give your fur family a hug from me, they feel almost like family tome!

  2. It sounds like Parker is "thanking you " for finding a new home for Echo. When I bring a new cat home, I've noticed that it's the most recent cat that is "bent out of shape" over the new comer. I guess it's similar to bringing home a new baby. The previously youngest child is jealous that he or she is no longer the baby of the family.

  3. a bit jealous I'm thinking; much like the child who see's a new baby sister or brother. it's funny their reactions to
    said circumstance. the only cat I've ever met who did not have a problem with another cat//dog being introduced was boomer; then again boomer lived his first year on the streets and only the good Lord himself knows what boomer went through. he accepted dai$y from the get go and they
    remained for the most part close, up until the end ♥♥♥

  4. I think your assessment is spot on: insecurity, fear of loosing ones place in the family or actually loosing ones family altogether. How very sad.
    But there is a bright side. Now, you know, with certainly, now how attached he is to you and how important his/your home is to him. Also he knows his place in the family and his beloved home are secure. A great weight lifted from his kitty shoulders, I'd say. No wonder he's happy. Perhaps the next rescue won't pose such a threat to him.

  5. The Parker Effect.. I like it. I hope he settles quickly

  6. typical cat - everything on HIS terms :)

  7. Cats are territorial. They find their place in the order, and prefer no changes. Glad that the pendulum swung 'way back for Parker, to become an extra love-bug!

  8. I think you are probably right that Parker thought he was being replaced. The extra affection is likely gratitude that he is staying. He sounds a sensitive soul.