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My Cats Are My Teachers

April 19, 2010

I have three cats. Two of them are brothers from the same litter. I have had them since they were about eight weeks old. In August, they will be seven years old. Their names are Zeke and Charlie. As you can see by these pictures, they look a LOT alike!

About two years ago now, another cat entered our lives. Meet Caspian:

Caspian is a little younger than the other two, but not much. He started hanging out in our yard, and somehow got the idea that he lived here, so he would keep us up at night, scratching on the door for us to let him in. Finally, we did. We also put posters up around the neighborhood to see if anyone had lost a cat, but we got no calls. We did notice, however, that the house behind us had been abandoned. Looked like Caspian was here to stay.

He was such a loving kitty! He loved people, and spent hours on my lap. He loved people food too, something I wasn’t used to, as my other two cats were picky eaters and only ate certain brands of cat food, never even thinking of eating MY food! Obviously, Caspian was a pampered and loved kitty.

At first my cats seemed accepting. Maybe they were still trying to figure it out, but within a few months, it was apparent that they did not like that new cat at all. I would catch them ambushing him at the litter box, and other forms of attack. And it hasn’t stopped!

We have tried countless tactics – separating them, putting them in time-outs, buying Feliway. But for whatever reason, the two brothers gang up on Caspian and now he is terrorized all of the time! Last night, they scratched his cornea and we had to get some anti-biotic eye drops, again separating them so he has a chance to heal in peace.

This whole situation has gotten me thinking. It seems to me that as Caspian gets more fearful, the attacks get more brutal. Caspian has lost a lot of weight and barely wants to sit on my lap when the other cats are around because they attack him for sitting on me. Once they found out he likes to sleep on the bed next to me, they have totally blocked him from coming into the bedroom.

What they are doing is actually very natural for cats. They are protecting their territory from an intruder, and they are accelerating that based upon his fear. They sense his fear and his weakness, and in fact, his own fear is what is attracting their continual attacks.

How often do we have similar experiences? We fear not having enough money, and suddenly, an unexpected bill comes due. We fear not being good enough, smart enough, wise enough, and life comes along and proves that we are right. Caspian fears that he will be attacked and lo and behold, he is!

How can he change the situation so that the two bullies stop? If it is to change, he will need to stand up to them. He will need to find his courage and let them know that they can’t mess with him. That’s what Charlie did to Zeke. Zeke still challenges his brother, but Charlie already knows he can weather it, and even rise victorious, so Zeke, for the most part, leaves him alone.

How can we change our situations to get our own desired results? We need to believe we can stand up to them, first. Then we need to make a decision to do so. And if at first we don’t succeed, then we keep on persisting until we achieve our goal.

There’s a lot one can learn by watching the interactions of cats.

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