As a former journalism and acting student, I have a habit of observing people. Their interactions with others, behaviors in various types of public places, how they appear to relate to some people but not others.
Friendship is a funny thing. It doesn’t often make sense. I’ve read about unlikely friendships in the media, and I’ve witnessed it in my own life. I’ve also, with great curiosity, love seeing unlikely friendships among animals. A tiger with a parrot. An elephant with a dog. A cat in a shark suit riding a roomba chasing a duck (sorry, I had to include that, it’s quite possibly one of the cutest things I have ever seen!!)
Friendship among cats is not always easy.
I regularly visit a few cat-related websites and forums to connect with other cat parents. Among common topics like behavior, health, nutrition, there are many posts and articles about cat friendships and relationships – relationships with people and other cats. I think part of the socialization process is similar.
- How do I get my cats to get along?
- How do I get my cats to just stop fighting?
- How to get cats to play together?
- Why don’t my cats nap together and groom each other?
- How do I get my cats to sit on my lap?
Yeah, we’ve been there. I think to begin with, we had cats who were open and trusting. That allowed us to reassure them, pet them, teach them to get used to being handled and cuddled, but on their own terms. They responded really quickly, which was exciting for us.
It took a lot of little things to get our cats to a point where they are really interactive with each other and with us.
- Teach them their names. My cats come when you say their names (or nicknames). I’ve tried tricking them and saying a word that rhymes, in the same tone, and they knew the difference. Part of the reason I wanted them to learn this is if there is ever an emergency when we have to get out immediately, they would be more likely to run to us than run in the other direction in fear.
- We played with them on a scale of “gentle” to a little “rough” to find the sometimes blurry line between “Yay this is great!” and “Better stop now, I’m overstimulated!”
- Wear them out, then offer them to sit next to you.
- When napping, we play with their paws and paw pads, to get them used to being handled.This is imperative if you ever want to be able to clip your cats’ nails.
- If they won’t sit on your lap or right next to you, make small movements that lead to those activities. If they sit on the couch, gently pet them. Over the next few days, rest your hand for a few moments to get them used to touch. As time goes on, they might let you put your arm around them, and perhaps eventually “hug” them while cuddling. We did this with all three cats and Milo and Molly now love cuddling so much that they demand it. The moment Ken comes home, Milo is batting his leg with his paw to tell Ken, “sit down so I can jump on your lap!”. They both now sleep on us, as if we were cat furniture.
- We fed them together, to show that food will be there for both of them.
- We played with them together and on their own, so they didn’t become jealous of each other (though you can’t completely avoid those feelings!).
When we first met Molly at the humane society, she was really timid. We employed a lot of the tactics I covered above.
We had visited the human society a few times in the previous five months looking for another cat to adopt, but none really clicked with us. She was in a cage along the wall, instead of hanging out in the general cat population rooms. One of the volunteers told us that they found her abandoned her in a box in the parking lot, and that she was depressed and not eating.
I asked if I could hold her, as Ken and I sat on the floor to get on her level. I took this tiny furball into my arms and pet her. We weren’t sure, because she was rather skittish, but within two minutes, she climbed on to Ken’s lap and curled up. Probably a good half an hour ticked by, at which point I was sure this was “our Molly.” We signed the papers, and excitedly returned the next day to bring her home with us.
She spent the first few days in one of the spare bedrooms, which we call “the pink room,” where I have my desk, my books, awards, some of my medical stuff, a purple couch, and a television. It is essentially my “office” (Ken has an office in a room in the back of the house). For three days, I spent half of my day (and all night) with Molly, feeding her, petting her, playing with her – anything to help her trust me and feel safe. It was a process that we used when we brought Milo home, and it seemed to work well.
The seclusion didn’t last very long, because they both became curious as to what – or who – was behind the closed door. The first official meeting was a little nerve-wracking. Milo was a boy, twice Molly’s size, and hadn’t lived with another cat since Mackenzie.
I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship – Rick, “Cassablanca”
Milo wanted to get to know her a little more quickly than she wanted…
But the next day, she seemed better able to tolerate him, the first sign towards acceptance.
Things progressed pretty quickly, because the next evening, I found them like this:
And the rest was history!
I still cannot believe that these two unrelated cats, several years apart in age, new to each other, and having to both trust and adapt to major life changes, were cuddling this closely, so quickly. The photo above was the first of many “twin” moments, where they looked like clones. Given their similar color, markings and behaviors, one might think they were litter mates.
They vacillate between being the best of friends and competitors for attention, food, the best spot in the window, and toys. Molly sometimes gets feisty, and Milo lets her win most of their “fights”. Molly makes the funniest “mean kitty” face, scrunching her eyebrows and waiting patiently until Milo makes a move. At double her size, Milo lets Molly wrestle and take him down. It’s hilarious to watch. As much as they compete, they do a lot of loving.
We often find them in the same positions.
Regular size. Fun size.
Milo: Did you hear what I hear?
Molly: What did you hear?
Milo: I think I heard Daddy opening the bag of cookies!
The buddy system ensures that nobody gets left behind, especially when Daddy’s handing out treats.
You cross one, you cross both of us!
Milo has taught Molly a lot, including how to get up so high that Mama can’t get them down!
“Friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest…It’s about who came, and never left your side…” – Unknown
In the cat world, friendships are forged on primal instincts. Since we can’t (always) know what they are thinking, there’s a pretty good chance that these things run through their minds on some level:
- Is this cat a threat to me?
- Is this a cat a threat to my food supply?
- Is this cat a threat to my domain? (In multi-pet households, there is a pecking order.)
- Is this cat a threat to the attention I get from my owners/guardians/parents?
- Will this cat do the right “cat thing” and cover her stuff in the litter box?
I am tickled that these two love each other so much. As I type this, Milo has just joined Molly in the big chair, resting his head against hers, one paw stretched over her belly, hugging her tight. These two seem like they were made for each other, and I am so lucky to be owned by a pair of such sweet kitties!!