Tuesday, November 22, 2011

His Scruffy-ness

It feels like it's time for a cat update. In October, we officially adopted Scruffy, the tuxedo tomcat who had been begging to come into our house for months. Adopting him involved two trips to the vet's office, one for a check-up and shots, the other for a neutering procedure. That done, we began introducing him to our other cats.

Smudge, our alpha cat and also a tuxedo, did not like Scruffy one bit. Aside from the fact that they are both black and white with that distinctive "I'm dressed for a gala" look, the two have nothing in common. Scruffy is burly and, since he wasn't neutered until he was almost 2, has the full- faced jowly look that tomcats get. Smudge, on the other hand, is sleek and slender jawed.

Scruffy can be aggressive with our other cats. For the first several weeks of shared space, first Smudge, then Scruffy, received slashed noses. Smudge growls whenever Scruffy comes near, a deep-throated, rumbling that emanates from deep within his chest. Scruffy has stopped chasing Smudge and Smudge leaves the room if Scruffy shows up.

With Baby and Frankie, the dynamics are a little different. Frankie is definitely a lover, not a fighter, and he avoids Scruffy whenever possible, to the point of skipping nightly treats if the catmosphere is too tense. Frankie has always buddied up with Smudge in a pleasant, deferential way and he has always rough-housed with Baby in the big, overgrown kid kind of way. That remains the same, although Frankie seems edgier with Scruffy inside.

Baby is the only one who approaches Scruffy with any sort of camaraderie. They nose bump and butt sniff in friendly cat fashion. Occasionally Scruffy rubs up against Baby like he's looking for a friend, yet he also chases Baby around the house. This alarmed me at first, but now I've decided that it is playful rather than aggressive, so I ignore it.

For a while, I tried to intervene every time Scruffy got bossy or mean with my house cats. The funniest thing happened though. When I yelled at Scruff to stop or no-noed him in my tough voice, I scared the other cats more than I scared him. Occasionally trying to stop a stand-off resulted in a fight, because when I would startle the cats, one of mine would inevitably run, and Scruffy would then attack.

I quickly learned to leave them alone to sort things out, operating on the same principals that I used in childrearing. Things are quieter now days, with less in your face behavior by Scruffy and a little more tolerance by the house cats. Scruffy insists on being an indoor-outdoor cat, something we haven't had in 20 years, but it works well to give Smudge, Frankie, and Baby some relief from the changes he has wrought in our cat dominance hierarchy.

The downside of that is a increasing interest by the house cats in the outdoors. They want to see where Scruffy is going when he leaves. Last night, Smudge dashed into our bathroom as soon as I shut the door on Scruff, trying to get up on the windowsill (which isn't big enough for him) to check out the backyard. A few days earlier, Baby actually made a break when I held the front door open for Scruffy. I followed him, alarmed, and found him sitting on the front terrace looking bewildered. He advanced and retreated on several areas of the garden before dashing back inside, apparently overwhelmed by the sights and smells of his childhood territory.

I need to collar Scruffy and put his rabies tags on him so that he is protected from the cat police, although, if the feral colony is any indication, there actually aren't any cat police where I live.

Michael and I both intended for Scruffy to be his cat. That isn't working out as well as we hoped, although I am doing my part by ignoring him most of the time and petting him half-heartedly the rest of the time. Michael lavishes him with attention and, if Scruff is as smart as I think he is, he will figure out that the food and the love do NOT come from the same hands.

Scruffy would be happier in a one-cat family and we would be willing to give him up, so if you'd like a nice cat who isn't much trouble and who loves to be petted, let me know. Scruffy might be meant for you!

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