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Cats Find Peace, if not Love

It’s been a while since I updated my readers on the developing reconciliation among my cats to their joint living arrangement. As you’ll recall, fourteen months ago now, my husband and I introduced a pair of kittens into a household containing an elderly feline who, although born feral, had spent most of her life in the company of other cats. We hoped for the best—a quick acceptance—and got … not the worst but definitely less than the ideal. So this season of warm and fuzzy feelings seems like the perfect moment for a retrospective.

This time last year, the kittens were out and about after two months of gradual introduction to the household, but the older cat was sequestered behind a mesh screen door where she could observe but not attack. She had food and water and her own litter box, as well as frequent visits from her humans—and we certainly didn’t blame her for her reluctance to adjust to the new situation—but for the safety of all concerned it seemed best to create a barrier while not teaching the kittens that they should spend the rest of their lives apart from the family.

Did it work? The answer is yes, mostly. The boys have reached their adult size, so they can defend themselves if threatened. More often, they give Mahal a wide berth. When they nonetheless encounter her, they have learned to run fast and make quick turns, knowing that her arthritic legs and somewhat dicey memory will work in their favor. They share food dishes and litter boxes, and they have settled on a division of territory. Mahal gets the couch and the people in the evenings; the boys take the back bedrooms and my husband’s study. The living and dining rooms are also mostly theirs, because they create a long, open space suitable for cat gymnastics like couch hurdling and speed racing. My study, the kitchen, and the laundry room are shared.

Three Siamese cats in various stages of relaxation in a carpeted room with a wooden balcony and a file cabinet topped by two piles of C. P. Lesley's novels.

All the cats interact with us, and the boys are still tightly bonded brothers, which means that they alternate play and squabbling but always make up. Each also has his own personality, and they no longer cling together as they did when they first arrived. They have clear preferences, too: Ruslan flops on his side when my husband brushes him and snuggles at his feet every night; Rafi likes to get under the covers, stretch out at my side, and purr in a steady rhythm that is both soothing and soporific. Mahal has her routines, too: she likes to get brushed after breakfast, to fall asleep to Beethoven’s Seventh in my study, to snuggle on a fuzzy blanket after dinner—and, I kid you not, to watch football. She hasn’t quite mastered the schedule: she will sit in front of the TV at noon on Tuesday and meow. But when a game is on, the sounds relax her to the point where she doesn’t even object to the other cats’ sharing her space. Well, so long as they stay off the couch. Let’s not go nuts here.

An elderly seal-point Siamese cat on a fuzzy white blanket with a television screen showing a football game in the background.

That brings me to the last question (for now): would I make the same choices again? Absolutely. I’d adjust my expectations, of course. Asking a once-feral cat who was the equivalent of seventy-five to welcome two rambunctious youngsters was perhaps unrealistic—although the cat who welcomed her was not much younger and managed the transition just fine. But despite the near certainty that Mahal, even today, would probably vote for the boys’ removal, I can see that their arrival has been good for her. She has put on a little much-needed weight, her fur is shinier, she does less anxiety-fueled grooming, and she shows more interest in her surroundings—even if she mostly wants to ensure that no one will sneak up on her.

Meanwhile, the boys are a delight. And since I have reached an age when each decision to adopt requires serious attention to the question of whether I will be around to see the commitment through, to experience the maturation and the developing relationships once more with these two particular sweeties is something I cherish with every day that passes.

Two Siamese cats (one seal point, one blue point) snuggled together in a fuzzy cat bed.

And who knows? After all the progress the three of them have made in the last year, maybe it’s not too much to hope that they may all get to share the family-room couch one day.

All three cats sharing my study (Mahal is closest to the file cabinet, with Rafi in the middle and Ruslan to the left); Mahal watching last year’s Super Bowl; Rafi (right) and Ruslan squeezing themselves into their cozy cat bed. Photographs © 2023 C. P. Lesley.

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