I know I’m getting older, as I’ve definitely run out of energy this summer. The present excuse is that it’s too darn hot and humid. The garden I planted is now flush with veggies, raining tomatoes and continuously sprouting a tasty green called “Perpetual Spinach,” #1 on my list recommendations for the home gardener. No, filled with gloom as I am, I think I’ll just talk about the “kids”—not actual children anymore, as ours have long ago flown the nest and have children of their own—but the three cats that we now live with.
My days are a long feline saga. There’s an old saying to the effect that “If you want to write novels, get a couple of cats,” and IMHO it’s true. No longer do I have teenagers, but I have these cats, and the trials and tribulations of our multi-cat household never ends.
Currently, we have three cats domiciled with us. I would never presume to call myself an “owner” of "pets" as the cats I’ve met generally end up calling most of the shots. These three are the first I’ve kept in—the bird/small mammal neighborhood body count is too high to be acceptable to me any longer. Plus, eventually, with outdoor cats, predators--animal or human--disappears our beloved furry family member. Therefore, our kitties, Kimi, Tony (Anthony) and Willy (Yum) all share the same space. Tony (aka “Ant-knee”) is a young tough from Long Island. I could blame the daily uproar on his theoretically removed testosterone-producing parts, but that would be the easy way out for this Cat Mother.
Kimi is now an elder cat. Long-haired, she requires daily brushing and combing. Nevertheless, she still gets constipated as a result of her own personal grooming regime and needs frequent doses of Laxatone©. She arrived here starving, with open wounds and a PTSD which never subsided. Since then she has mostly lived, by preference, wherever other cats/people are not. She has just had a bout of pneumonia and I’m pushing several pills a day into her. Fortunately, she and I have a relationship of affection based upon my respecting her intricate web of boundaries, so these pills—so far—are no problem.
Willy is also 'Clawed,' because he has a major bad habit of scratching furniture, to the point where we have mostly given up arguing about it. We reason we'll all be dead soon enough and will no longer care. This flaw is worth putting up with, because he is a giant cuddle-bug who kisses and hugs his people.
With others of his kind, Willy-yum is a go-along, get-along kind of guy—until he draws the line and bites which is his method for drawing the line with Tony. Willy and Tony are friends for face-licking, as well as tussle and chase games, even though Willy is older and somewhat lame. No, the problem is not between the boys, or with their newly formed posse, but between the boys and Kimi.
Willy, sensitive soul that he is, understood right away that Kimi did not want to be friends with anyone. He did not take this personally. He and Kimi politely left one another alone, about the best that we can all hope for.
Tony, however, takes Kimi's crippling fear as a personal affront, one that he rediscovers anew every day. Kimi, as he sees it, should play and wrestle with him like Willy-yum does. In his world view, this is the natural order of things, perfectly obvious to his bright yet inflexible mind. When he bounces up to her, she hisses and retreats under a chair, this, 100% of the time. That, he presumes, is an invitation to get under the chair with her. When (unsurprisingly) she screams and scratches, and all hell breaks loose.
So since she's been ill, she is recuperating behind closed doors. I move her between rooms in the heat, transferring cat boxes, food, water and beds each time, with Tony trying to either trip me or jump Kimi all the way. His nose knows that his Cruel Cat Mom has been feeding the Stupid One "better" food. And yes, I am. Sick cats get appetite tempters like baby food and kitty cans.
If I try to share kitty cans out, however, Tony gobbles his and everybody else's too, so all special food has to be dished out behind closed doors. In an attempt to be "fair," I've dirtied many, many kitty dishes. I feel like a Mom dealing with a nearly toxic sibling rivalry.
I soon gave up the sharing of canned chow. This summer's supply chain lapses are making purchasing the "right" flavor/texture kitty food chancy. Things will get easier when Kimi recovers and we can just return to my occasional running interference when the familiar routine of his bullying and her fear gets out of hand. Like people, these two kitties have difficulties with changing their visceral reaction to one another, reactions which lead to "antisocial" behaviour from both parties.
The official Chinese line on pets is that they are "useless bourgeois luxuries."* They may not be "useless" in terms of the emotional support and comfort we two-legs receive from our fur friends, but they are luxuries our 1st World living conditions allow us to enjoy. Spaying, neutering, maintenance and vet care (because "where there's stock, there's trouble"**) are fixed costs.
Moreover, you need time to devote to their proper care as well as a generous share of patience and understanding for their non-human needs and ways. They may have once been thought of as "dumb animals," but we know better today. Between you and these complex, sensitive critters a relationship will grow. Just as relationships between two-legged beings require time, thought and uncomfortable doses of learning about yourself, so too can our dealings with our mammalian kin test and enlighten us.
*The Economist, July 2021
**"All Creatures Great and Small", James Herriot