Kaja and Rhubarb

Kaja and Rhubarb (collectively known as “The Flying Monkeys” for their early approach to getting around the house) came to us from the Pinole Animal Shelter as three-month-olds in July of 2009. They’re litter mates, and are a fascinating study in just how little influence genetics may have on personality.

Kaja2Kaja is an adventure girl, poking her nose into everything, going everywhere, and doing her best to give us heart attacks by taking the stairs on the outside of the bannister or trying to walk up their underside. She’s often called “Ms Ottergirl” because she’s always going and doing things she hadn’t otter be. David Weber fans will recognize the derivation of her name, and there’s never been any question about its suitability: Great Kaja is indeed a mighty huntress and inspiring leader.

Rhubarb2Rhubarb, on the other hand is a classic omega kitty. He’ll follow Kaja anywhere, but wouldn’t consider taking the lead. He was more active as a kitten, naturally, but today if left to his own devices, he’d prefer to sprawl in a quiet spot and snooze in between polite requests for cuddles. Despite being the largest and probably strongest cat in our herd, he almost never stands up to any attempts to bully him. He’s named partly for the yellow cat in H. Allen Smith’s novel “Rhubarb”, partly for Rube Goldberg, and mostly for the kitten on the label of Trader Joe’s “Turkey & Giblets Dinner” cat food. Rube Goldberg? In his younger days, following Kaja everywhere resulted in a lot of chaos and confusion. Even now that he’s more sedentary, Rhubarb manages to wind up at the center of every whirlwind, despite the fact that he’s never the instigator. Either way, he’s earned the nickname “Rube Goldkatt, Chaos Engineer”.

Unfortunately, Kaja began focusing her hunting on Yuki, the youngest of our feline co-residents. After she did damage to his flank and tail, we had to separate them, and Kaja now resides in semi-isolation.

Reintroducing Kaja to the herd has been a slow process. She continues to try to swat Yuki through the fence that separates them; Yuki, for his part, seems to take great delight in settling down just out of paw’s reach and elaborately ignoring her. As I write this, in fact, they’re conducting a stare-down through the fence.

Rhubarb hasn’t taken separation from his sister well, and frequently jumps over the fence to spend time with her. The semi-isolation and consequent lack of exercise hasn’t done well for them, and they’ve both put on weight (Rhubarb less so, since he does spend much of his time with the other cats – often being chased around the house by the younger ones.) Kaja is now on a diet and slowly dropping the ounces.

Kaja is not only getting less food, but she has to go to some effort to get it. She’s the not-so-happy owner of a “work for your food feeder“. The feeder has definitely helped, and we recommend it highly for cats who need a little additional exercise. Note, however, that Kaja quickly figured out a design weakness. We had to screw the feeder to a large chunk of plywood to prevent her from knocking it over and getting all the food at once. Clearly QA skills run in this family.

Both are enthusiastic cuddle recipients. Kaja loves a good tummy rub, while Rhubarb is a chin-skritch enthusiast.KajaRhubarb1

2 thoughts on “Kaja and Rhubarb

  1. Well, it’s not just the genes per se, but the ways in which they combine and work together, and interact with the environment.. Despite having 50% of their genes in common, my own 2 kids couldn’t be more different in their approaches to life. (And yes, each in their own way, they couldn’t be better people. As good a similarity as there could be).


    • The major differences between Kaja and Rhubarb on the one hand and your two kids (at least for purposes of this discussion) is that K&R are the same age and until Kaja went into semi-isolation, they hadn’t been separated for more than a couple of hours for their entire lives. Makes it somewhat akin to a twin study, but with the environmental differences minimized instead of the genetic differences.


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