Sometimes We Make Mistakes

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I’ve said before that I am new to all this cat stuff. I was a ferret person for twenty years, and thankfully, cats and ferrets share similar physiology and behavioral traits, otherwise I would be totally fucking this shit up.

We had another incident with Moon being a total douche this morning. It was my fault, in hindsight, because I’d forgotten some cardinal rules about introducing new members to a business of anything. And I’d forgotten how much hissing, biting, and general chaos there was with the ferrets until each new member was able to find their place in the order of things. Cats are no different, and I wasn’t paying attention.

Moon was in the room, grooming himself; Rupert was in his circle bed; and I had a dish of tinned food. Moon had already eaten, or, had done what loosely resembles eating but is really just the smearing of the food all over the dish because he doesn’t really like tinned food. Anyway, I pet Rupert and set the plate down so he could take his turn eating. As soon as I turned my back, Rupert got out of the circle to approach the dish, and, in an instant, Moon walked over, swatted Rupert in the head, and forced him back into the cat bed.

I was mortified.

I wasn’t mad at Moon because I know why he did it. He used to get his food taken from him all the time when he was outside, so he was basically telling Rupert, “No. You can’t eat until I say so.” Even though he hates the tinned food, it’s still a resource issue.

From The Nest

How Do Cats Determine Dominance? – Pets

Competition for Resources

Fierce competition over food, water and attention can be a cause or symptom of feline dominance struggles. The food bowl is likely the prime place for a kitty showdown, so feeding your cats separately is a simple way to reduce the chances of conflict between your pets. Give your cats treats, attention and catnip separately to prevent them from feeling that their survival and happiness is reliant on “beating” each other to the good stuff.

I’d forgotten this. I wasn’t paying attention. I should have made sure that Moon had left the room before feeding Rupert, or, I should have had a treat for Moon.

I needed to refresh my memory on hierarchy issues, so this morning I did a bit of research, and I found something telling that I had missed recently.

The first time Moon napped in the room, we were all on the floor — Moon in one cat bed, Rupert in the other, me on the floor in the middle of the room. The second time Moon snuck into the room for a nap, Rupert was on the floor in the cat bed, and Moon was on the chair. We thought it was because Moon is fond of the fleece mats, but after reading this, I’m sure it was also, in part, Moon declaring his higher position in the grand scheme of things.

Top Cat: The Feline Hierarchy in multicat households.

So how can a human decipher the subtle relationships and hierarchy among the cats in the family? Actually it is not that hard. Cats like to get high and look down at everything going on around (or preferably below). In most cases the top cat is literally that – the cat occupying the highest available spot. From time to time they may permit cats from the lower ranks to take the prime position, but only on the understanding that the spot will be yielded as soon as top cat wants it. Another clue as to the status of the cats can be obtained by watching how they enter the room. High-rankers cats will go straight to the middle, whereas a cat lower in hierarchy, will likely slink round by the wall. Other noticeable thing is posture and eye contact. For example, most cats first posture or engage in an eyeballing contest before getting into a fight. Cats close in status are more likely to actually get physical.

I know things will be OK because, most of the time, Moon is very polite to Rupert, so the only anomaly during this morning’s interaction was the food. Sometimes, no matter how much we read and educate ourselves about something, we aren’t really aware of the issues until we witness something that makes us aware of them.

The issue was minor, and now I have to be more mindful. That said, the cats do have to work the hierarchy out for themselves.  I can’t tell them what to do, but I can make sure it doesn’t get out of hand. Though I might need to start using the Rescue Remedy myself by the time this is all over.
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