I was awakened again at 2:00 this morning to find Fang in my arms – and Bugs grooming Fang’s head vigorously. This went on for around ten minutes. I don’t exaggerate. He covered every hair on Fang’s head with Bugs-spit. Then the boys leapt up and began thundering around. Sans disagreements.
Then, later, I heard Bugs playing in the other room with his favorite Chip-N-Chirp ball. Fang jumped up to join him. Again sans incident.
I think this may be an important turning point.
The key understanding happened earlier last night. My long-time cherished cat-lover friend Kim is a principal member of my Cat Guru Consultation Committee. Wednesday nights are our time to talk on the phone. The boys know their Auntie Kim. Each time I’ve been on the phone with her, something important goes down. Most memorable was when Fangie broke out of quarantine, four days after gotcha-day.
Last night the hostilities started up again, but this time Kim was right there on the other end of the line to hear the blow-by-blow and to advise. Here is the point she made last night. It seems so important it deserves bold type:
The resident cat must be supported, validated, encouraged, and praised.
I had it backwards. My human-projection thing revolted against Bugsy’s aggression; I simply can’t stand it when I see power used this way. I needed to jettison that. Bugsy has been upset that his relationship with me has been upended. I have tried to protect Fang from him, at a time when Bugsy is trying to make his crucial point that he is boss cat, and he has been confused and upset by this.
He has gone into a Dark Place.
In Fang’s part, he may have perceived an advantage to be got by flaunting his “special status” with me. “Nyah, nyah, she loves me more than you.” I needed to discourage that, and to encourage Bugs’s self-assertion instead.
Kim demonstrated how she had done this with her resident dog Ivy, when introducing her two new cats Stewie and Meezer. Can you believe it? When she used the “special voice” reserved for that purpose, I could hear Ivy instantly start barking at the other end of the line! Too hilarious.
It worked — here’s a rendition of a photo of Ivy and Stewie. Artwork by the wonderful Here There Be Spiders.
So last night, with Kim’s excellent example before me, I did things the other way round. When Bugs went after Fang, as long as I could keep things reasonably safe, I encouraged him. Not exactly egged him on – but validated and praised him. And I broke things up only when they got too hairy; i.e., when fur started to become detached from body. I didn’t even need time outs – all I had to do was deploy my Cesar Millan “calm-assertive” impression.
It seems to have worked. Bugs seems to have returned from the Dark Place. He is the Bugs I used to know, before the no-eating no-pooping constipation scare.
Later this morning the boys played together twice. Twice I saw Fang break out his signature instigating move, where he lurks, and then leaps in the air and comes down on Bugs’s back. Bugs was his professorial unperturbed self and let the matter pass without comment. I praised him to the skies and gave him a treat.
Here’s Fangie keeping an eye on Bugs. I love how his legginess spills over the chair.
And by the way. Poop Patrol 2012, with the nation’s gratitude, you may stand down.
What. You thought something else?