December 21, 2004

Dante and Cocoa sitting in a tree

I've been waiting no, hoping for this for a long time. A year and a half, to be exact. We acquired Cocoa in June '03. Dante hissed at him and stalked away, shocked at this little black fuzzy thing that followed him from room to room and stole all his favorite cat toys.

Then Cocoa wanted to play. Dante hissed some more, smacked him, and ran off, growling. Then Cocoa wanted to play some more. And more. Cocoa is a very persistent fellow. After a while, Dante realized that this was actually fun, this smacking-the-kitten game. After a while, he even started instigating the fun. I knew Cocoa had won Dante over one day when I first saw Dante streak across the living room and on into the kitchen, chased by the black furball and then a few minutes later witnessed them heading back across the room, ninety miles an hour, only this time Dante was chasing Cocoa.

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So Cocoa and Dante were play mates. Which was wonderful. I know cats who coexist and never get that close to pleasurable interaction. But Cocoa wanted more. And have I mentioned? Cocoa is persistent. Irresistible force wearing down immovable object. Cocoa wanted more than a boxing partner, he wanted a buddy.

First step: grooming. If he walked up to Dante and licked his fur, Dante would bolt. So he did it more casually; they'd be having a boxing match, thwap, bop, smack, and Cocoa'd have Dante pinned for a moment. What did he do? Go in for the kill? Not exactly. He'd lick Dante's fur, vigorously grooming him. And poor pinned-down irritable Dante would lie there, passive to his antagonist's ministrations. Once I saw Dante bat at Cocoa after Cocoa stopped, cat language for "Hey! Keep going!"

Next step: being groomed. And after a while, Dante did. He'd casually, as if by accident, happen to have his tongue out and happen to want to brush it against something that happened to be black fur and hey, if it cleans a fellow cat, well, why not?

Things have lasted at this plateau for several months now. They play, they groom, they drink from the same bowl at the same time. The one final boundary: they sleep near each other but never closer than that. I once had a pair of Siamese cats, sisters. They used to sleep on top of each other, piled like clean laundry in a basket, flopped over each other. So sweet. Cat love. I've wanted this for our two guys. I think Cocoa does too.

This week he succeeded.

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They slept like this all afternoon. At one point, Cocoa put his arm around Dante: "You're my buddy, guy." I was ridiculously pleased. I took far too many photos and walked around grinning. Why do I care? I don't know exactly, but I do.

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I think it's partly that I've come to realize since we got a second cat that cats are by nature tribal creatures. They're not the loners everyone thinks they are. They really do thrive on each other's company and form a different kind of relationship with other cats than they do with humans. Stands to reason, right? But I never considered it before. I had a single cat mindset for many years and never knew what my kitty was missing. Now I do and I want all of it for them. I want them to have each other, a community of two. I want them to roughhouse, grouch, get jealous (you petted him, now pet me!), race each other for the food bowl, learn from each other, talk to each other in yowls and chirrups, and yes, curl up and bask in the warmth and comfort of another feline body. We tend to think of cats as companions for us. I mean, isn't that the definition of pet? But they're also animals with their own complex set of needs and instincts. They like human companionship (ours do, anyway) but everyone, even cats, need someone their own size to hang out with. Like minded souls. Tribe.

Posted by Tamar at December 21, 2004 01:12 PM
Comments

If this continues (which I am sure it will), you'll need a bigger cat bed/perch!

Posted by: Brad at December 21, 2004 03:20 PM

I remember a similar dynamic with Nikko, my old man, and Scout, who we got in 2000 when she was 6 weeks old. Nikko had been burned once, when my roommates moved away and took his buddy, Jim, with him; then Scout, with that persistent kitten mojo, kept after him for six or seven months, until their horseplay became so raucous that I called it "Klingon sex."

What's fascinating, once the tribal impulse kicks in: you often feel like either a parent or a prodigal child (two sets of eyes staring up: "Where have you been?"). Or else just a touch irrelevant to what's really important in their world.

We lost Nikko two years ago (at a healthy old age) and have been thinking lately about getting a buddy for Scout. Your post makes ir sound like a need, not just a nice idea.....

C

Posted by: Chris at December 22, 2004 10:52 AM

I loved your post. I'm a cat person, with 1 kitty currently. We've always felt it wouldn't be fair to her to bring in another pet. Perhaps it's what she needs when we're not here!

Loved the pictures :)

Posted by: Sandy at December 24, 2004 03:57 AM

Brad, the perch is bigger than it looks! Cocoa just likes to expand to fill the space (and then some).

And they did it again a couple of days ago. Happy, happy, happy.

Posted by: Tamar at December 26, 2004 06:51 PM