Category Archives: Siblings

DIY Catifying the Apartment: Accommodating our Tree Dweller

Well, I can’t say I ever thought I’d write a blog post about catification, but here I am, approaching yet another level of crazy cat lady. But you know what, I’m okay with it.

As I wrote in my last post, it was extraordinarily difficult for me to leave the animals for two whole weeks. I managed to temper my anxieties with proper planning and support, and everything ended up working out perfectly. Thanks to my brother and his girlfriend, the animals remained happy and healthy. And as it turns out, their presence had an added and unexpected benefit: the value of a new perspective on old problems. 
I know I’ve written in the past about how Freddie and Stella despise each other. After I wrote that post, I got so many helpful suggestions from all of you that did help diffuse some of the tension. (Thank you!) Freddie and Stella have come a long way (no bloodshed in a while!), but the sheer hatred they feel toward one another remains. To make things worse, I’ve been so distracted by Zoe’s problems that I and started to accept the fighting as the norm and stopped trying to figure out the root of the problem. I would merely break them up when they would fight, and try to spend separate time with each of them in the meantime. 
Stella sitting with her “I’ll cut you paw” ready to spring into action.
After having my brother and his girlfriend stay here, they (gently) approached me with a great suggestion. Influenced by the cat daddy himself, Mr. Jackson Galaxy of My Cat From Hell tv fame, they made a seemingly obvious observation: Freddie likes to be up high. Why not make it possible for him to perch above, leaving the ground free for Zoe and Stella to roam. As Jackson (I’d like to think we’re on a first name basis) explains on his show, cats are either “tree dwellers”who like to be up high, or “bush dwellers,” who prefer the safety of the ground. By making more space available to cats up high, you can double the size of his territory. And in our small city apartment, this sounded like the perfect solution.
While I’ve always been fine with the idea of a simple cat tree, K. vehemently resists. Our apartment, he believes, is already “animal-centric” enough without yet another piece of animal furniture taking up room. Creating shelves for Freddie seemed like the ideal compromise.
On the second day we came home, K. launched into the DIY project to “catify” the apartment. Here’s how he did it: 
1. He measured Freddie to determine how long and wide he is (and what would be a comfortable sized perch for him). Freddie did not enjoy this part. 🙂
2. He went to Home Depot and found wood that matched our black bookshelves, and had them cut to the preferred size (We ended up going with four shelves, two of which are two feet long and 8 inches wide. The two smaller shelves were 1 foot square). 
He purchased a material resembling an outdoor mat that you’d wipe your feet on, and cut it to match the same size of the wood. This way, Freddie would not slip when hopping from perch to perch. 
He bought screws, finishing washers, and then screwed the carpet into the shelves. 
He purchased two braces for each shelf, which he attached to the wood. He drilled anchors into the wall, and then attached the shelves accordingly.
The supplies.
K. at work! 
3. K. and I worked together to ensure the shelves were placed at heights and distances that would work well for Freddie to be able to get on and off them. 
Et voilá!
Can you find Freddie?!
It took a little coaxing to get Freddie to feel comfortable on the shelves, but now he loves them! 
Freddie in his bed on top of the bookshelf.
Now that Freddie has all this new territory, he and Stella haven’t been fighting as much. Okay, it’s just been a day. But I do see a difference! Hopefully it will continue to stay that way! 
P.S. As I’ve mentioned, Zoe’s surgery is today. Please keep her in your thoughts!  
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Patience is a virtue: Letting animals set the their own pace

It’s no secret that dogs and cats communicate in different ways. What to Zoe is a playful paw extended in Freddie’s direction is to Freddie a threat of an aggressive swipe. And as you may imagine, Stella neither appreciates nor understands Zoe’s desire to make Stella her dance partner (aka, Zoe play-bows and Stella flees in the opposite direction). That being said, it isn’t exactly like the two cats understand one another either. (See: this post and that one). As I’ve said before, Zoe tolerates the cats and sometimes tries to play with them, but she hasn’t cuddled with them since she was a puppy. That is until lately…

Not only are they sitting next to one another, but they match! 

It appears that their desire to be close to K. and me outweighs any hesitation Zoe and the cats may feel about one another.

(Thank goodness “Movember” is almost over).

Well, most of the time.

Freddie = master creeper.

More and more, I find Zoe sharing her space with the cats in a way she wouldn’t have permitted a few months ago.

(My leg in stylish studying attire).

For so long, I was trying hard to “convince” the animals to be friends. But once again, they’ve reminded me that these relationships have to play out on their own schedule.

Nearly two years later, their interactions are still developing and changing. Just when I had given up hope for anything more than a canine-feline truce, they go and surprise me.

Who knows… maybe there’s hope for Freddie and Stella after all…

Doubtful.

P.S. For another interpretation of the Freddie-Stella-Zoe dynamic, check them out on Pitter Patter!

One Showdown After Another…

Lately K. and I have noticed that Zoe and Stella’s relationship seems to be improving.

When we first brought Zoe into the apartment, she and Stella got along really well. Zoe was still such a puppy that she tolerated everything, including this…

This move reminds me of a certain dog we know...

which often turned into this…

Everyone is a cushion in Stella’s world.

But as Zoe grew older and more confident, she stopped tolerating Stella’s brazen behavior.

And over time, Stella had to learn to respect Zoe’s space.

Zoe had to do the same (she often learned the hard way).
Do NOT mess with Stella.
Not withstanding the occasional skirmish, by and large, Zoe and Stella live in peace.

Unfortunately, Stella and Freddie have no such relationship. Despite our best efforts to properly introduce them, they despise each other. Every single day they have showdowns over “territory” in the apartment. Sometimes these standoffs end peacefully…but often not.

I may be adorable, but I will cut you.

Although Stella is the more temperamental of the two, Freddie is usually the instigator.

Tiny but fierce.

I used to have hope that their relationship would improve over time, but two years later, little has changed. Just today I had to break up a fight that was so intense there were tufts of fur flying into the air. Picture something like this:

Photo Credit: http://www.examiner.com/article/communication-part-2.

Do your animals get along? How have their relationships changed over time?

Zoe and Freddie’s Different Languages

Freddie and Zoe speak two different languages. Zoe loves everyone (sometimes a little too hard) and everything (except for loud noises and food bowls). She is the happiest animal I have ever owned. One of my favorite activities is walking her down busy Chicago streets because so many people smile at her. The unadulterated joy that marks her every experience is contagious. In short, Zoe loves life.

She pretty much always looks like this. (Photo by A. of Two Pitties).

Freddie, on the other hand, believes that life loves him.

He is the king of his own universe, though his needs are quite simple. Indeed, Freddie’s favorite activities consist of the following: 1) covert bathtub missions to coax water from the faucet 2) daily morning facials in my bowl of cereal, 3) creeping on Stella, and 4) swatting Zoe’s tail and then running away. Freddie runs our household, and never takes no for an answer. 
Because they both have such distinct personalities, it is hilarious to observe their interactions. Here are some of my favorite Freddie-Zoe moments:

And here’s a little video from tonight: 

The Story of Stella and Freddie: A Family Melodrama

My recent post on our Facebook page depicting a Freddie-Stella confrontation got me thinking, these two cats have been living in disharmony for two and a half years now. Do they really hate each other, or do they fight out of sheer inertia?

Showdown time.

At least a few times a week, they get into a minor scuffle over something — be it a shared pathway, a human’s lap, food, or Zoe’s water bowl. In fact, it seems like everything that is Zoe’s holds higher value for them.

Freddie in the bottom of Zoe’s crate.

Dog bed? What dog bed?

Stella sitting in Zoe’s crate.

We tried to do everything right when we first rescued Freddie. Because we took him literally off the street, we quarantined him from Stella until we knew whether or not he was FIV+ or had any other contagious diseases. When we found out he was healthy, we continued to keep him separate in order to allow Stella to become acclimated to the scent and presence of another cat.

Itty Bitty Freddie.

Over time, we allowed the cats to see each other through the door. Freddie was curious, and when he would try to get a closer look at her, Stella would hiss and growl. Like I said in another post, Stella does not like other cats. We had not been planning on getting another kitty, but Freddie adopted us. When I saw him living outside, I knew we had to have him.

How can you not love this face??

After a few weeks of living in separate quarters, we slowly allowed Freddie access to the rest of the apartment. At the time, we were living in an apartment that was *maybe* 900 square feet, and it was difficult to block off a space entirely for Freddie. When we decided he was safe to share the apartment with Stella, we made sure to keep separate food, water, and litterboxes for them. We hoped that maybe Freddie’s sweet kittenness would rub off on Stella, or at least that she would view him as non-threatening.

We were naive. Though Stella had hissed at Freddie when he would get too close to her, we thought that overall they were coexisting quite well.

All this changed one Tuesday night when I was sitting in the living room working on a paper, and I heard a series of hisses, the crash of a chair falling to the ground, and a blood-curling screech. I dropped my book, and ran into the kitchen. The first thing I saw was blood. On the kitchen table. On the chair. On the floor. At first, I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. I do not believe in declawing, so the injury could’ve come from either of them. But then, I turned and saw Freddie, cowering in the corner, his right eye filling up with blood. I panicked, thinking that maybe Stella had blinded him. I am a notorious fainter, but I somehow managed to stay conscious for Freddie’s sake. Not that I was calm, exactly. In my rush to get to the emergency center, I ran outside in my pajamas, wearing two different shoes. Poor Freddie meowed the whole way to the hospital. It’s a miracle we made it there because I was shaking so badly I could barely grip the wheel.

Upon taking one look at him, the technicians at the front desk immediately brought him back. A vet came and examined him, concluding that Stella had missed his eye by a fraction of an inch. They had to shave part of his head to determine the extent of the wound, so he left the clinic looking like a kitten suffering from male pattern baldness. But we avoided a major injury, and for that, I was massively relieved.

After that incident, I was much more vigilant about watching Freddie and Stella together. For the most part, they seemed to avoid each other. But as Freddie got older, a funny thing happened. He started to provoke Stella. He would swat her tail as she walked by, or chase after her and smack her hind legs. When she would whip around and hiss, he would run away.

Freddie also mastered the art of the stinkeye:

Showdown over the couch.

The Freddie stinkeye has many forms, and is difficult to describe. But you know it when you see it.

Not amused.

The stinkeye specially reserved for Zoe.

It seems that Freddie has taken a few plays out of Stella’s book, and now we have to worry more about Freddie taunting Stella than the reverse. Though there has been no more bloodshed (thank god), these two felines harbor a definitive distaste for one another.

Freddie: Master Creeper.

Trust me, they are not cuddling.

This makes the quiet, peaceful moments all the more surprising . They lead me to wonder whether or not Freddie and Stella are secret friends when K. and I are not home. Very often I have come home, and found them sitting near each other.

 Not exactly spooning, but not fighting either. A truce?

I have thought about trying to “re-introduce” them by keeping them separated for a while, and then very slowly reacquainting them. But I am not sure whether or not this is worth the effort. It seems like Stella plain dislikes other animals, and Freddie will continue to be rambunctious.

This leads me to ask you: Do you have any animals that live together, but do not get along? (I feel like this is the feline version of the type of question posed on daytime talk shows). But in all seriousness, how do you manage it? Do you accept the discord in your home, or do you work to improve the relationship — that is, if it’s possible to salvage.