Silver Lining

I mentioned last week that until Yuki builds up more strength and regains more control over his hind legs, we’re restricting his movements. He’s occupying the master suite: plenty of places to hang out, a favored locale for several of the gang, and frequently occupied by bipeds to give him snuggles. And, most importantly, no stairs. He’s definitely not ready for stair-climbing–no matter what he thinks.

He’s mostly putting up with it, but he dearly misses his favorite afternoon pastime: sprawling on the floor outside Maggie’s office and teasing the inhabitants, Kaja in particular.

We’ve never understood the root of their mutual antagonism, but it goes way back. In fact, the last time Yuki had to wear a Cone o’ Shame, it was because he’d incited Kaja to assault.

Since that attack, Kaja has been living in Maggie’s office, along with her littermate, Rhubarb. It was a joint decision: she largely refused to ignore Yuki’s attempts to tick her off, and he couldn’t resist teasing her, but wasn’t nimble enough to get out of her way. So when Kaja stopped roaming the house, we mostly stopped opening the office door except when we were actually walking in and out of the room.

But now, with Yuki confined to quarters, we’ve been leaving the door open in the evenings, so the Flying Monkeys can go exploring. And it’s working. Somewhat.

They’re not hugely brave about it, and oddly enough, Rhubarb has been more adventurous than Kaja. He’s made it down to the dining room and kitchen a couple of times, while she hasn’t even made it to the foot of the stairs.

But they’ve been doing the meet-and-greet with Lefty and Emeraldas, both of whom joined the crew long after Kaja gave up on the world outside Maggie’s office. Largely amicable meets, I might add–for local values of “amicable”.

The result:

Top to bottom and left to right: Kokoro, Rhubarb, Kaja, Sachiko, and Emeraldas.

Yes, five cats in one photo.

Even more impressively, Lefty and ‘Nuki were by my feet, well within sight and smell of the stairs, just ill-placed for photographic documentation.

We’ve been hopeful about reintegrating Kaja before, only to be disappointed. But this is an excellent sign.

More Introductions

While we are allowing the Formerly Feral Fellows more freedom, we do keep the fence up across the stairs for most of the day.

Neither of them has made any effort to jump or climb over it, so we presume they’re not bothered by the restriction. Though they are spending more time hanging around near the top of the stairs.


Rufus especially likes the top of that box. It’s a well-padded place to sleep, with plenty of slightly filtered sunlight from the window over the stairs.

Lefty still prefers dark, enclosed spaces, so the lower bunk suits him perfectly.

When we take the fence down and let him wander freely, Lefty frequently comes down as far as the main landing. It’s not just the food bowls that catch his attention.


After a few through-the-fence interactions, ‘Nuki seems to have figured out that Lefty is not as easygoing as his mentor. He’s not a fighter, but he will take a swing at anything he thinks might be threatening him.

I don’t think Lefty wants to be an alpha-kitty, but he does seem to believe in keeping his options open.

As a result, we’ve had several near-interactions like this one, with the two settling down on opposite sides of the floor and elaborately ignoring each other.

Of course, it doesn’t harm the developing relationship any that Rufus casually hangs out nearby, keeping an eye on his protege.


Stay Good, Kaja! Stay Good!

Cute cat pictures are back! As usual, you can click to enlarge them to full size.

We continue our efforts to reintroduce Kaja to the others, especially Yuki. It’s working, albeit slowly.

Kaja spends several hours a day, generally from dinner time to bed time, free to roam at will. She’s usually loose longer on the weekends, and we’ve even allowed her to remain out overnight a few times. Sometimes we even go out shopping or to eat dinner and leave everyone to run their own lives.

There’s still a lot of growling and hissing from both sides–Yuki is far from an innocent victim of the unprovocated attacks of his “evil” sister–but there are also occasions where they manage to occupy adjacent chunks of the universe:
(Yes, Dad, I did change the pillow case.)

It helps when biological brother Rhubarb interposes himself between the two, certainly. It also helps when big sister Kokoro steps in to wash behind Kaja’s ears (and remind her who’s really running this joint).

Of course, what helps the most is when everyone just gets the heck out of the way and allows Kaja to snuggle up with her brother. Amazing how easy it is to ignore that obnoxious fuzzball when you have the greatest, cuddliest pillow in the world.

Signs of Progress

I’ve mentioned in the past that Kaja and Yuki do not get along. As a result, Kaja has been living in isolation for quite a while. To a great extent, she hasn’t minded much–and why should she? She has her own food, water, and litter box that she doesn’t have to share with anyone. The only frustration for her is that she has been separated from Rhubarb, her litter mate. Until we isolated her to protect Yuki from her (and vice versa), the two of them had been inseparable. She moped quite a bit, and when Kaja mopes, everyone hears about it.

Several months ago, we began letting her loose and watching her carefully. As soon as she and Yuki began hissing or growling, Kaja went back into isolation. When it got to the point where they went for several hours without a confrontation, we eased off on the oversight.

Kaja’s “excursions” have been getting longer and longer. As I write this, she’s been running loose for over nine hours, and we haven’t heard anything more than mild grumbling from either of them.

And Kaja has been taking full advantage of the opportunity to spend time with her blood brother. Yesterday I looked into the bedroom and saw this charming sight:

Note the coyly interlaced paws.

Here’s what makes it even more impressive:

Yes, that’s Yuki on the other side of the bed. Until I interrupted with the camera, he was sound asleep. He’s glaring at me for waking him up, not at Kaja for existing.

Signs of progress, indeed.

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