Kitty Empathy

Awhile ago, I passed by an ASPCA van, with cats up for adoption. I went over to take a look and fell in love with a cat called Caiden. I love Irish names, so he caught my attention. I already had two cats at home and wasn’t looking for a third, but Caiden was so affectionate, such a lover boy sticking to me like Velcro, that I couldn’t resist. He was like a baby just wanting to be held. So, Caiden came home with me.

My housemate was surprised and so were my two other cats. The ASPCA told me what to do when introducing them to each other and I followed all the steps diligently. I kept him in my room. I let him smell the other cats under the door. Everything seemed to be okay.

One day, though, Caiden clearly got tired of being kept to one room in the house. He escaped, got out into the main part of the house and all hell broke loose. I could never have guessed it, but this little guy, who was so warm, affectionate, and doting with me, was aggressive towards my other cats. When he got out of my room, he made a bee-line for my other male cat, and attacked immediately while Seamus screamed in terror. Horrified, I had to separate this giant ball of fur, an actual cat fight. I shouted, “Stop it! Stop it! Leave him alone!”

I felt so sad and concerned for Seamus. It was terrifying to watch how Caiden had hunted him down while the third cat hid in the closet. For some time, the fighting continued between these two, though I tried to keep them separated. Even when I attempted to let them outside at different times, thinking this would give them some space, I would hear the howling and screaming of another fight from outside the house.

I’ve grown up with cats, had them my whole life, and I’ve never seen anything like this. It went on for weeks. I called the animal clinic, talked to their pet behavioral psychologist, discouraged. She said to me, “I hate to tell you this, but I think you better look for another home for Caiden. I don’t think it’s going to work out. The behavior you’re describing, attacking the other cats, is kind of extreme. It doesn’t bode well for working out long-term. Maybe Caiden needs to be a solo cat.” I sadly started looking for a new home for Caiden. I didn’t really want to give him up so each time the two fought, I’d drop everything, and run over to stop it, hoping to make a difference.

My housemate, I have to hand it to her, said, “Dian, I think you’re actually making it worse because you get so scared when they fight.” It made sense. I hadn’t thought about it before, but it’s a natural phenomenon for fear to show up as aggression. I wondered if my fear was amping up the fight energy between the cats.

So, I completely changed my strategy. I began to pick Caiden up every time Seamus came inside the house. I pet him, loved him up, and said things like, “I just want you to know, I’m so glad you’re here. I think over time you’re going to like Seamus because he really enjoys being with other cats.” Seamus, upon entering and seeing the monster on my lap, was understandably tentative. Caiden would get a little antsy when the two were inside the same room, but I just kept up with the petting and the soothing voice, and tried to imagine how they both wanted some calmness and peace.

After several days of this, they both relaxed. I still worried I might ultimately have to find another home for Caiden, but in time it was apparent that things truly had transformed. Now, the two cats groom each other daily, sleep in the same bed (happily), play with each other, and even eat from the same bowl, which I never imagined would be possible. I wonder what the pet expert would think to see how things have changed. From my perspective, it really is an empathy miracle.

11 thoughts on “Kitty Empathy

  1. So lovely, and hope for me. I would love to give my cat a companion, but she goes mad when there is another cat.

    Love Andrea-Emilia

  2. Yes, all 4 mammals in my house need empathy. 🙂 My husband learned to give our first dog empathy when she grows at him. He understands she is scared and just saying “stay away.” I’m so grateful he is able to do this because I love my husband and doggie both! –Jaye

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