Katz Tales: New tomcat sends resident kitties into fluffed-up shriek mode


  • Animals
  • Monday, 11 Mar 2019

Potato is a cat with newfound freedom to roam his neighbourhood. Photo: Ellen Whyte

A week ago, a howl of fury went up outside. I can tell Swooner’s shrieks a mile off and this one was pure fear. I went piling out, thinking he was facing wild dogs, a pack of feral cats or worse – when I was confronted with the terror: a young tomcat.

The tom was in our garden, and therefore in Swooner’s territory. As the intruder hid in the ferns, I surmised he’d snuck in for a pee and had met head on with our kitten, bent on the same mission.

Swooner was fluffed up and wailing, convinced he was about to be beaten up. As I know my kitten, I touched his ear, rubbed his chin, and escorted him quietly into the house. Then I went back out, intending to expel the invader.

As angry cats can go off like bombs, a safe way to move them on is to take a wide bottomed broom, lean it against their bottom and push gently. Very often, just the sight of a broom is enough to get them up and going.

Seeing the broom, the tomcat continued wailing. So, I leaned the bristles against his bum – and he rolled over on to his back. That kind of body language meant he was a pet, and totally unused to being “brushed”. However, he kept screaming. Also, the heaving breaths and big eyes said he was frightened.

Seeing that, my heart was instantly at war with my head. My heart was saying that a scared animal needed comfort. My head reminded me that fear induces flight or fight, and this kitty might think it best to claw me to bits.

Rather than do anything daft, I hunkered down and talked to him. The kitty talked back with blood-curdling shrieks. After a minute, the volume decreased and he sat up. He blinked a few times, ducked his head, and then the tail began to unfluff.

I took a risk and put out my hand. For a moment it all hung in the balance – and then he headbutted me. I rubbed his face, and he came leaning against me. But all the time, he was howling away.

It was the strangest thing ever. Usually cats scream at each other, and then deescalate to growling and anxiety purring. But this kitty seemed to be stuck in banshee mode. I patted and patted, and finally he stood up. Then the noise stopped.

The kitty had fur soft as mink, a collar with a bell, and very soft feet. Clearly, he was an adored pet, but we’d never met before. I was about to take his photo and canvass the neighbours, when his dad turned up.

It turns out that our visitor is called Potato. He was a cage cat but now his family are letting him go for walks. Awesome, right? To see a boy have freedom and exercise? As we waved goodbye, I hoped we’d meet again.

We got our wish the very next day. This time, Potato sat in the drive and Swooner lay under the car. I didn’t know a thing about it until I walked outside. There was no howling or wailing at all, just two cats having a silent staring match.

I left them to it.

The staring must have gone really well because the day after that, Potato was inside, sitting on our sofa. Granted, it was raining. No doubt he didn’t want to get his coat wet. However, Target spotted him and had instant hysterics. And of course, Potato went off like a fire alarm.

Swooner streaked up the stairs, terrified by all the aggro, while Target girded his loins for battle.

At this point, Tom entered the lists, and tried to defuse WWIII by flapping the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia batik between them, in order to break their eye contact. Target stood down but Potato just dug in his heels and howled, paralysed by terror.

By the time I came on the scene, everyone was fraught. Leaving Tom to corral Target, I picked Potato up. The relief in his eyes was almost comic. He clung to me as I trotted through the rain, and when I put him on his own wall, he headbutted me in thanks.

It took several treats and a good patting to soothe Target but, strangely enough, the introduction worked because Potato was back yesterday and there was no fight.

Potato lay by the big tree and screamed a lot, but Swooner and Target sat and stared at him, without bushed tails. I left them to it, and after an hour, Target came back inside. Potato left shortly after, and nobody was mauled.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this development. On the one hand, Swooner needs company. Our kitten used to follow Guido about all day long and he’s really missing the big cat. It’s been two months since Guido vanished, and although I’m tying to retain some hope, I fear he’s gone forever.

Swooner has Target for company, but there’s a 10-year age difference. While they play race and chase in the evening, Target spends the bulk of his day with me.

Charlie, the cat across the street, has been picking up the slack. But Charlie is old as well, and our lively Swooner does drive him up the wall a little. Plus, Target isn’t fond of Charlie and won’t allow him in our garden. So, all of Swooner’s playdates have to be at Charlie’s.

Normally, I’d hope that Potato could befriend Swooner. They’re about the same age, so they have compatible energy levels. However, Potato has not been neutered and that poses some serious problems. Currently, he’s a nice boy but unless he gets the snip, he’ll be plastering stinky urine all over the house, and fighting.

I’m going to have a chat with Potato’s dad, and hopefully this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


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