Sunday, October 28, 2018

How Cats Count

Despite his personal difficulties (ie. FIV, stomatitis, traumatically altered environment), Raleigh’s arrival in the cosy apartment has created much less of a stir than I thought it would. It may possibly have to do with my – so far – successful experiment to release all the beasts, and not confine any of them to any one room. The less restrictive setting seems to have benefitted everyone.

However, I have another theory for the – so far – peaceful transition to a six-cat household. It is inspired by one of my two favourite fiction books, Watership Down. The rabbits in this novel can count but just up to four. After that, the only number they know is represented by their word ‘hrair’ – ‘many’ or, more poetically, ‘thousand’. When Parker came to live with us, he was the fifth. The feline population here had reached ‘many’. Now, Raleigh has come and, since the number is, so far as the cats are concerned, the same as it was, regardless of the addition of a completely different animal, there is no friction, no trouble.

My thanks go to the late Richard Adams for his explanation of lapine arithmetic. Hopefully, it will maintain the peace in my increasingly crowded ‘warren’.


  1. I wonder if that theory would work on my three cats. My last one I adopted from the streets is still not well liked by the other two.

  2. P.S. I enjoyed seeing a picture of each of your cats! Lovely!

  3. I tried to read Watership down several times, but could never finish it, but I remember that part about the way rabbits count. I liked your post and was thinking that maybe the title of your blog should be - I have many cats.

    Anyway hats off to you John for taking care of your team so well and giving them a safe and loving home.

  4. I loved Watership Down. I remember many parts of it right now, thinking of it. As I became more and more immersed in it, I was right there with them, it was that engrossing and certainly engaging. Glad to know someone else who did as well. :-) When I see someone smoking outside, I STILL remember Fivers remarks.

  5. Interesting theory, and who knows, it might actually be correct!

    I imagine that the older residents (i.e. those with you longer) have mentally given up. "Oh, look, another one. Whatever." :-D

  6. I think Kia said it perfectly. I've noticed that phenomenon with my cats. Years ago it would take weeks for my older cats to adjust to a new comer. Now when a new cat it added, everyone adjusts within a day or two.

  7. How fascinating! BTW, I have never read 'Watership Down' but it's on my Goodreads list now. Angel hates all other cats. We could have worked with her for months, years, to get her to live without hissing at Da Boyz, but lucky for us, she has her own apartment. Am glad that you have peace...or your cat kingdom.

  8. I’ve never sequestered cats unless for medical reasons or severe stress already present on arrival. The few times it has been necessary, that adjustment period was always harder. My four more recent adoptions integrated seamlessly into the general population. (Bad choice of words there.) I think one gets a feeling of how to handle things after a bit.

  9. Not keeping them separated seems to work with many different species. We have a livery yard taking a maximum of 8 horses. Often new arrivals ask if we keep them separate until they get to know each other. We say no and tell them we put them straight in with the others. There may be a bit of foot stamping and squealing, but it is very rare that it goes further than that. The owners are amazed saying that their horse has normally been chased for 2 or 3 days when they are put in with others after a week or 2 of separation. My feeling is that they see the strange horse in a neighbouring field, and then when it is put into their field they see it as an intruder, whereas being introduced right away they accept it as a new member of the herd.
    Sorry, I seem to have gone on a bit but I do see the similarity.

    1. There's much in what you say; the idea of the newcomer being seen as an intruder after being a neighbour seems right. I will probably integrate a new arrival almost immediately, the next time I have one. (Good Heavens, no time soon, I hope!)