This blog is the first in a series of Lessons Learned that I plan to write. Other teachers include a rescue cactus, hurricanes, and challah (that should not be a surprise…)
I was planning on doing either the hurricane or the cactus first, in part because they have recently been active in my life, but the recent introduction of an older large sized tabby, the cat of a friend who passed recently, has brought amazing admiration of one of my other cats. The new cat is Bella, and the two prior cats are Nikki (short for Nikud, thanks to some interesting spots in his coat – white and tabby), and Fuller (for the very distinguishing feature of his tail). Bella is not happy with several things in her life right now, not the least of which is that her papa of seven years is no longer here and because the home she knew for those years is not where she is living.
For all that, Bella has been a good cat. She uses her new litter box faithfully and she eats reasonably well. She came to me with a generous supply of dry food and two cases of wet food, her own food bowls, some blankets and shirts from the old place, and a carrier. For the first several days, she was sequestered from the other two cats, who were both keenly aware of a new presence in the house. The dogs did not care at all!
Nikki and Bella mostly hissed and snarled at each other at every turn and did not make friends quickly. Fuller on the other hand fascinated me in his approach. Nikki was our first cat, having found us at Chanukah time as a youngish kitten. Attempts to locate an owner failed and so he moved in despite my claiming I would never have another one. A year later, Bill saw a kitten that caught his heart at a Humane Society adoption event, and Fuller came to live with us. There was a two-week typical adjustment period between Nikki and Fuller at that time, with Fuller as a young kitten. Now the two of them are fine together and the house easily supports both of them with more than enough space for two neutered males.
Enter Bella. She is something over seven and came from a multi cat home, but had been an only can since August when the second of two other cats passed at her previous home. So she was the “last cat standing” there and had taken to spending quality time with her dad before he passed. Now she was here. She has been making decent progress, but it is not all roses. She hisses and snarls some. Mostly at Nikki these days. Fuller is pushing the envelope in a marvelous way.
Bella is eating and drinking fine and she is willing to explore her new home. She has not attacked anyone, but she will mostly stand her ground, as does Nikki, each giving only millimeters to the other until the hissing subsides by mutual agreement. Then each moves away – I guess that is a “draw.” And then there is Fuller.
Fuller approaches in two phases. As soon as he spots Bella, he come quickly to a close and “safe” distance (one just beyond where she has hissed or growled prior). Then he approaches slowly, deliberately, and totally non-aggressively. There is a matter-of-fact confidence to his poster that lacks any negative connotation. As soon as Bella tenses, before she hisses, Fuller plops onto the floor in a casual splay, again confident and non-aggressive. His demeanor is impressive. It is both intentional and disarming, and not solicitous. He places no demands on Bella, but he is “in her face” with his presence.
When Bella become accustomed to Fuller’s presence, he inches closer. On the few occasions where he misjudged her attitude or Nikki was too close and she hissed, he jumped back a few inches and stood there assessing the situation. When his interest in Bella waned, he slowly moved away in a sideways movement that was neither passive nor submissive and appeared to say “I am leaving now, there is no need to chase me.” And Bella mostly ignored him as he left. Fuller can now get within inches of Bella and they can eat close to each other.
Nikki, not so much, although the hissing and snarling are much diminished between them as well. Mostly they have found ways to not be in each other’s way most of the time and they can both move through the house, taking turns on different pieces of furniture. However, Bella has not tried to sit on the couch or cat tree that Nikki favors (Fuller will sit or climb over them at different times with no reaction from Nikki unless he surprises him or lands on him in a jump).
So the lesson from Fuller is how to be assertive and confident in a very positive, non-aggressive, non-demeaning way. He is absolutely alert to where she is and is consistently near her. He appears committed to facilitating her adjustment and non-invested at the same time. There has been no indication of disappointment (I think there MIGHT have been a little surprise once or twice when she hissed, but even that was short-lived) or self-satisfaction at progress. Fuller simply appears to take the task at hand as something he is doing, is going to do, and will see to a positive workable completion for all concerned. I guess he will decide if they will be friends or not after the task is accomplished. Now if he could teach Nikki those skills, and then Bella…..
As for me, I hope I can learn them as well. There are many tasks in life that can be best accomplished by just doing them and doing them well because they need to be done.