Monday, May 19, 2008

Cat vs. Cat

We have a bit of a dominance issue among our furry kids. For many years Ella ruled as "top cat", sometimes subtly (she is the one to make sure we humans remember to fill the food bowls twice a day) and sometimes through arrogance by ignoring the two youngest cats when she walks past them. But she never fought with any cats to be on top. Then one day we met Felix in the parking lot of Costco. He was hungry, dirty, not fixed, and needed a home. Life for Ella has never been the same. Felix wants to be king cat and Ella is not happy about this. Felix bullies the other cats and sometimes has all-out fights with Ella. I've tried the Feliway plug-ins (a pheromone) but it's an expensive solution at about $18 a bottle and the cost of electricity to run it. So I bought the book Cat vs. Cat to help find a better way to keep the fur from flying. On an aside, I also bought a Furminator, which is fantastic for removing excess hair and which will hopefully cut down on the shedding. I should have taken a picture of the piles of hair we collected from each cat. Enough to spin...if I wanted to do that but ew, I think not.

Having been owned by cats for quite a number of years, I didn't learn much that was new from the book but it did corroborate my own thinking and observations. There is a pecking order and it goes: Ella, Felix, Sergei, Abby...with Ella and Felix jostling for the top spot and Abby content to spend her life hiding from the world. When Felix gets upset or we've played with his white feet too much (oh, the white feeeeeet!), he beats up on Sergei or Abby. So we really need to be more aware of his feelings and not tease him, even though it's out of love but he doesn't understand that.

One thing I hadn't really considered too much was how the cats must divvy up the space in the house for their own territories. They have done a pretty good job of claiming the living room. We redid the room a few years ago and bought a beautiful leather couch for it and hoped to use the room for...well, I'm not really sure actually. The TV is in the family room so I guess the living room is for sitting. And curling up with a good book* But as soon as the paint dried and the furniture was moved back in, the cats took it back as theirs and now the new couch is covered with throws to protect it from their claws as they run across it and from the hair. Oh, the hair! Hopefully Furminator will help with that.

Here are three smug cats in their room, on their couch. The two tabbies are Ella on the left and Abby on the right and the white one is Sergei. Lots of nose-prints on the window too.

The book suggested providing more vertical space and a cat tree does that very well, and helps keep the cats off your furniture. We'd been planning to make one (being the do-it-yourselfers we are), but that hasn't happened so we opened our wallet instead. Although I'd like to have the tree in the living room to provide an alternative to the couch, the book suggests placing it where you spend time so that you can interact more with your cats, so it's in the family room. It's been fascinating to watch the interactions and the power struggles. All day yesterday Felix "claimed" the top and he's been scratch, scratch, scratching on the vertical pieces whenever he can. Ella mostly hangs out on a middle shelf and Sergei has come by to check out the "hidey-hole" in the very bottom. Abby never came out of her hiding place, wherever that is. This morning Ella claimed the top and you can see how grumpy they both look in this (really poor) photo I snapped. Even when Ella is victorious she doesn't look content - either it's her "tabby frown" or she's just very cautious that Felix might attack at any moment. And he might.

So will there be more harmony in the house with the new cat tree? I don't know but it gives them a new place to hang out and deposit their hair. I don't expect I'll be able to reclaim the living room couch but maybe they'll spend more time in the family room with us. Maybe Abby will get brave enough to come out and investigate and claim a shelf. One can hope.

*we are amused by people on the house hunting and redecorating shows (like HGTV) remark about a corner of the room or a window seat as a place to "curl up with a good book." As if. Eh, maybe they are big readers but I think it's something people would like to think they'll do.


  1. lol
    well, I do hope you get some peace between the kittens!!!

  2. OMG. The Furminator thing looks incredible. Our cats shed so much here. I remember walking down the stairs behind Benny and watching these little "poofs" of hair float away from him every time he took a step. I went to the Furminator site and though the only place they have them in India is in Bombay, they do have them in Singapore and we will be there in a few weeks. I might try to pick one up!

    Good luck with the cats!

  3. Ah, cat wars. An all-too familiar subject. Good luck! I hear there's one going on over at Mary's too.

  4. our little furry friends are brothers but we had them neutered before they hit puperty (so to speak). Mostly we have "friendly fights" but it is pretty clear who's the boss ;) Each of our cats chose a two-legger he prefered, so DH has "his" cat and I have "mine" but actually, Dhs cat is more likely to be the "I love you all" type and Greebo (my cat) is very specific about just be cuddling with me :)
    Be bought our cat tree via ebay and it has been a very very very good purchase. Our furniture is mostly scratch free!

  5. Maybe I need to get you to give me a Furminator demonstration. It doesn't seem to do much for our cat.