Saturday, June 1, 2013

Succession to the Throne ~ A Cat Story

It has been interesting to sit back and watch our New Cat find his way and place in our lives and within the perameters our Old Cat has subtly set for his young friend.

Andre (our existing cat) is one cool cat. I have said time and time again that I believe that he was raised by dogs. His social skills and ability to adapt and love with abandon are more dog-like than 'catty' in any way.

When Radius (we have abbreviated our new cat's pre-existing name to 'Ray') came into our home, Andre gave Ray a few warning hisses. They sniffed noses, each was curious about the other and they traded acknowledgements. And that was (just about) that.

The first few days, it seemed that Andre could not rest. He watched over Ray's every move. It reminded me of the way I watch over my daycare family. When everyone was new, I monitered their every move until we all knew each other and everyone knew the rules and guidelines. I could almost hear Andre's cat-body-language mimic my own until Ray settled in a little bit.

Ray comes from a family of twenty cats. He is a social animal. He isn't vying for authority over Andre in any capacity. But Ray comes with a quiet, self-assured way that makes it very clear that he will not be going hungry or bending to authority. He is a cat that simply knows what he wants. And he goes for it.

Andre was always low-cat-on-the-totem pole when we had three cats. He has been thriving in his one-and-only-cat status for at least seven years now. We have grown to love the confidence that he exudes when he is not bending to the authority of another cat. He loves his people and his purr can be heard from across the room when he wants everyone to know how loved they are. He is one extra special guy.

When I saw his confidence wane in the first few days Ray came into our lives, I gave him many a pep-talk. "You are still King Cat around here. You keep Ray in line. You were here first!" I like to think that we understand Andre and he understands us. In the case of Andre's English comprehension not being as capable as I hoped it to be, we tried to communicate our thoughts in nonverbal ways too.

We ensured Andre knew that his special soft cat food meals were his. Ray has no sense of boundaries. When he smelled food, he just went for it. Andre would have gladly stepped aside. But we didn't allow it. Andre gets first dibs!

Andre has a special spot on the couch in My Youngest's room. Andre chose to abandon it for a few days but My Youngest continued to ensure that Andre knew that was his spot. Not Ray's. Ray's spot is on the other side of the couch. One cat to My Youngest's right. Another cat to his left. One hand to pet each cat. It makes me smile when I check up on the cats in the middle of the day (when my son is in school). I have often found each of them in their own special spot on the couch.

Whenever it is appropriate, we continue to remind Andre that his ranking within our family has not changed. Though I believe he questioned it at first, I think that he is learning to believe it.

Cat games between Andre & Ray involve a (pretty tame) game of tag. Andre is always in pursuit. We think that this is Andre's way of reminding Ray who is in charge here.

Then there is wrestling. Again, it is a pretty mild form of cat-wrestling ... but what we are seeing, is that Ray is the submissive one. He lays on his back and Andre is the more dominant of the two. Ray is a bigger, younger and more agile cat by far. He could easily rule the wrestling matches. But he doesn't. I give him a lot of credit for that. He is a pretty cool cat too.

Ray is now giving Andre a little space when Andre is dining on his special soft cat food meal. Not much space. And I hesitate to believe that Ray has the will power to step back from the food without human intervention. But he is quietly adapting to the rules-of-the-house.

Ray is a quiet little rebel. As Andre has wielded his authority, taught him right from wrong in the cat-rules around the house, been the persuer in tag and is the reigning champ in wrestling. But Ray is curious and agile young guy. He sets his sights on that which is above him ...

Yes Andre, you are still King Cat around here. But Ray is watching your every move. He may only be Prince (Charming) right now. But I think he getting used to the idea of being first in line to your throne.

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