Bad Blood

Things are not going well. According to the experts, we have been doing everything right, but things are not going well.

We took Lady for booster shots this morning. The Vet’s assistant told me her mother introduced a feral cat to a genuinely mean tom and by the end of six weeks they were cuddling like the stunt doubles on my home page. Tomorrow marks the end of week five, and we’ve still got haters in the house.

We have tried keeping them separate; we have tried putting them together. We have tried supervising interactions; we have tried walking away. We have rubbed them down with towels, swapped towels, and rubbed them again until they hate every towel in the house and Terry and I are the only ones getting used to their smell. We have given them treats together then used treats to lure them as far apart as possible–all while pumping sixty-dollar kitty pheromones through the house.

They hate each other.
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As Trouble gets more comfortable here, he has become more territorial. He spends a large part of his day rolling around like a kitten in catnip to mark every inch of the house with saliva–and he is constantly on guard. Lady can’t even come into the house without him giving chasing.20150701_192124 (2)

Soon, they’ll be sharing a room at Catnip Hill, where all the cats in all the pictures are happy and above average. We’ve never boarded before, but with Lady’s penchant for shredding and Trouble’s reputation for peeing, we don’t have much choice.

Our first instinct was to drop them off without a word about their behavior and drive fast enough to outrun our cellphone reception, but we decided the kitty hotel deserved a heads-up.

On the phone, the owner told me that she’s been at this for ten years and has only separated cats three times. She assured me she was well-equipped to help Lady and Trouble get along and that we would not get called back from vacation. She also gave us advice to step back and let them sort things out, “They’re just cats being cats.”

Listening to her calm, confident voice, I wanted to believe all would be well.

For one glorious week, we embraced her advice. We didn’t follow cats around the house or jump up from dinner when we heard growling. Most importantly, I got to tell Terry he was right all along, which made him very happy.

Then, a week ago, the annoying swats and growls turned into an all-out, rolling, caterwauling, giant-ball-of-fur fight three whole feet from the kitty pheromones! (Pfft!) and just like that, Trouble is locked in his room again unless Lady is out chasing bunnies.

In eight days they will be in a 5×6 room together for an entire week. We can’t imagine what it will be like, but we are hoping the Catnip Hill cat-whisperers can negotiate a lasting peace.

Meanwhile, Lady is free to inhabit as many bags and boxes as she likes untroubled..

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Finding Peace

Since our very bad day with the cats last Thursday, we have pulled out all the stops to make peace. It feels urgent since Lady and Trouble are boarding together for a week come August in a room the size of a queen bed. Right now, that seems an impossible dream.

20150701_121507Lady would prefer to remain strangers, but Trouble is not cooperating. When she’s inside, he follows her around. When she’s outside, he uses her litter box, eats her food, and drinks her water. The dazed where’d-Caitlin-go look is gone and his daily to-do list seems to read:

  1. Get food
  2. Get more food
  3. Harass that other cat
  4. Get food

Our Vet wants him kept inside. He’s afraid one might chase the other away from the yard. This means the only time they share space is at night, so unless Trouble is chasing Lady (which happens), we let him stay out of his room.

This means light sleeping as we listen to them squabble and jockey for position (why did we put those bells on them??); there haven’t been any injuries or blood-curdling 20150706_155111cries…yet. Lady seems mostly annoyed and exhausted. I’m hoping her patience holds. Trouble is twice her size, but she definitely has more killer instinct. We’d rather not see who takes who in that fight.

Meanwhile, on the advice of both the Vet and the all-knowing internet, we are piping Kitty Pheromones through our house, hoping to make them like each other. Basically, we’re trying to keep them stoned, but given all the angry protests of the ’60s, this may be misguided.

Our efforts to create “positive associations” between the two cats may be equally misguided. We’ve been offering them a special treat once a day and inching their bowls closer together. (One website actually recommended rubbing them down with tuna oil.)20150707_16274520150707_115503Trouble will eat anything, but it took awhile to find something for Lady that made being in Trouble’s presence worthwhile. A local chi-chi pet store carries rabbit in a can (who knew?), and that seems to be doing the trick. Slowly but surely, Trouble has made it all the way across the room until they’re almost even sort of next to each other.

They eye each other while eating. Lady doesn’t trust Trouble. Trouble is watching to see if she’s going to leave any food for him.

But now whenever Trouble hears Lady, he thinks it’s time to eat and comes running–which is just a hop and skip shy of a chase. And no matter how much I give him, he gulps it down before she’s done and tries to eat hers.

Can you imagine if she were covered in tuna?

So this is what it’s come to. My son’s playing bluegrass in New York state and my daughter’s kayaking Ha Long Bay…and I’m standing between two ill-behaved three-year-old cats thinking I really need to raise the bar on Mother’s Day next year.

I hope my children read that last part.

Flying Fur

Our impression of Trouble as the lovable, clueless Odie to Lady’s constantly-hissing Garfield has been officially shredded after watching him stalk, corner, and flat out attack her.

20150701_183652 (2)He’s “stalked” her before, but there was always a playful bounce in his step (just look at that innocent face!). He’s even rolled a ball in her direction–but yesterday he waited outside the laundry room, cut off her escape route, cornered her against the chalkboard wall–and Thwack! Ears flat and everything!


No blood was drawn, and the fight was easily broken up, but my optimism about this cat-sitting gig has been mortally wounded and Terry’s was utterly destroyed this morning. First, Trouble threw himself at Lady from a20150702_100749 perch, banishing himself to prison again. Then Lady bit her way out of Terry’s grasp as he was putting her in a travel carrier for an unrelated Vet appointment. It took half an hour, one can of tuna, and a swaddling towel to get her there. By then, we were late, Terry was upset about wasting his vacation wrestling cats, and I was angry at the implication that I should have handled this alone because somehow my time is less valuable.

Hmm. This all sounds familiar!

The whole experience reminds us of jumping at the chance to watch a friend’s children a few years back. They were five and two; we were new, misty-eyed empty-nesters. Time had washed away sleepless nights and belligerent confrontations with toddlers, leaving us with memories like giggles floating in from another room, naps in overstuffed chairs, and building the tallest Lego tower ever.

Imagine our surprise when these genuinely well-behaved girls required snack after snack after snack (and wiping down faces, hands, tables, and floors after every one). They cried over bees (who wouldn’t??) and couldn’t sleep in the strange house (who could??). When we hugged them goodbye and packed them into their parent’s car, we practically ran back to our clean, quiet, empty nest.

The real problem with the cats is we were patting ourselves on the back for how smoothly things were going. Trouble started out in Caitlin’s room, with Lady standing guard down the hall…but once we let him out, things seemed to be going well.

They even appeared to play together now and then.20150621_215615 (3)


A few cat scratches and fur balls later and we’re wondering why we offered to watch the cats while our kids run off on their grand adventures. We’re wondering why we spoil the kids, why we spoil the cats–why we had children in the first place!

Then we got to meet Pang, who lives with the vet. At seventeen, Pang is old enough to know where the best laps are and to understand why we do the things we do. With Lady outside hunting rabbits, Trouble basking in the afternoon sun, and Terry asleep at my side, I’m inclined to agree with Pang’s view of the world.

We even think we found a solution to our problems. More on that next time.