Katz Tales: Big brother cat not amused by kitten's hero worship

  • Animals
  • Monday, 12 Mar 2018

A cat peering out from behind a tree, as if to make sure he isn't shadowed by his mini-me. Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

Guido is sitting on the cabinet, looking rather grumpy. The reason for the temper is right behind him. In a word: Swooner.

Our kitten is obsessed with the big cat. Swooner follows Guido about like a little furry shadow and copies him. I’m not kidding: the kitten is mirroring every move his idol makes. If Guido scratches his claws on the tree, Swooner does it too. When Guido has a biscuit, Swooner is munching from the bowl next to his. If Guido is on the bed, Swooner is up there, too.

It’s a real case of hero worship. Sadly, Guido is not impressed.

When Swooner joined the family, we thought he and Swooner would be firm friends. After all, Guido is laidback, so super cool that he doesn’t even get into screaming matches with neighbouring kitties. We thought his calm nature would be perfect for mentoring a little cat.

However, Guido took one look at the little furry and drew back in horror. Kittens, he made it obvious, are not his thing.

It’s our nervy, uptight senior cat, Target, who has taken to Swooner. The two wrestle together, go for walks, and when one of the neighbourhood bruisers pitches up, it is Target who stands there, puffed up and warning the bully away.

Swooner loves his older protective pal, but his fascination for the company of the unobtainable big cat is unabated. So he acts like Guido’s shadow, running after his big brother whenever he gets the chance.

Swooner (background) totally adores Guido, who finds it all quite annoying, really. Photo: Ellen Whyte

Guido is the cat version of Chill Out, Dude but having a shadow is getting on his nerves. Luckily for our big boy, he has an out. Because Swooner has a bad front paw (from an accident when he was a kitten), he is limited when it comes to jumping. Guido therefore can get a bit of peace by sitting up on the garden wall.

When Guido does that, Swooner will play wild games, go for a nap, tease Target into wrestling with him – and sometimes he decides that fun means digging in cupboards and drawers, and smashing stuff.

Whatever he’s up to, though, as soon as Guido marches back into the house, Swooner adopts his best kitten ways. Although he’s got quite a good meow now, he squeaks like a newborn when he sees Guido. Then his tail goes up, quivering with excitement, and he dances on his tiptoes. In other words: he’s the picture of adoring excitement.

As he’s been living with us for over a year, you’d think he was on a hiding to nothing. However, Swooner isn’t half as daft as he pretends. You see, he already has a success story under his belt.

When Swooner moved in, he was totally wowed by the kitchen cats. There are four of them, living in our back lane, and all fairly feral. At that point, our kitten was emaciated and weak, and the wild cats could have killed him easily. However, I wasn’t worried because I didn’t think he’d ever really get close to them.

Boy, was I wrong.

Little Swooner would crouch behind me and watch from a safe distance as I fed the ferals at the back door every morning and evening. Then, when he was strong enough to jump onto the kitchen counter, they’d look at each other through the window.

At first, the kitchen cats would just hiss and spit. As my kitten was perfectly safe, I left him to it. I thought he’d become bored of being insulted in Cat and give up. After all, Guido and Target act as if they don’t see the kitchen cats.

But Swooner is incredibly stubborn. He persisted in saying hello, and in standing at the window. And over the weeks, Swooner’s determination began to pay off.

Baby Stripy, the youngest stray, was the first to break. One day, when he touched his nose to the kitchen window, Swooner meowed nicely, and they became pals.

Having made one convert, the rest of the tribe reassessed their position. Now when I open the back door, Swooner rushes out and rubs whiskers with three of them. Only the black girl, the most timid of the crew, won’t come close. It’s not that she’s holding out; it’s because I’m there. Like her pals, she chats to our kitten through the window every day.

So when Guido grumbles at his shadow, and occasionally swats him, I’m not too worried. Swooner is now determined to score again, and as he is extremely persistent, I think he’ll win out eventually.

As a matter of fact, it’s possible Guido is already beginning to soften. There was some nose-touching yesterday, and sometimes I catch the big cat smiling a little as his furry mini-me dances with excitement at seeing him.

We’ll keep you posted.

With enough time and a proper introduction, your new kitty and the older pet should get along fine. File photo

Little kitty, meet your big brother

In the wild, adult male cats of all species can, and do, kill kittens that are not related to them. However, in housecats, this is uncommon. You may get lots of growling and hissing, and perhaps a swat or two, but generally speaking, housecats are a lot more easygoing with kittens than their wild friends.

Some housecats will take one look at a kitten and go, “Aww, my mini-me!” Most, though, need to adjust to the idea of having a new member in the family. And, like little kids, they worry that the newcomer will mean competition.

Before you do anything, make sure the kitten has its own bed, toys, food bowl, water bowl and litter tray. They can share later when they’re pals but, at the start, you need to make sure your older cats are feeling secure about “their stuff’’.

Once you’re set up, you can start with introductions. Usually, an adult housecat will get along with a new kitten, if you take care to introduce them gradually.

Basically, you work with your pets’ natures. That means working with scent, sight and controlled positive meetings.

When you get the new kitten, keep it in one room, and let your adult cats roam the rest of the house. They’ll sniff at each other under the door, and get used to each other’s scents without being able to hurt each other. After a day or so, put your kitten into a travel carrier, and allow the other cats to “visit”. This lets them get used to the sight of each other.

Keep doing this for a few days. When you think they’re more curious than upset, hold your kitten in your lap and let the big cats come over and sniff. Keep it short and sweet. Then repeat little visits, stretching the time as you go along.

Eventually, you should be able to put your kitten down with the big cats. Timing is hard to predict, but 10 days or so is typical for everyone to settle.

Don’t worry if they’re not bosom buds instantly. Give them time. And remember to love and pet them all equally so nobody feels jealous.

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