Wednesday, October 8, 2014

High Population Harmony

As a recap, there are four four-legged furballs under my care -- Rosie, Evan, Astrid, and Thimble. And there are three more little furballs that, although they are not technically under my care, do play a large part in my life -- Trapper, Talon, and Toby. So, how can there be harmony in this furrily high population life of mine? Well, it's possible. Not always easy, and not always perfect, but it is perfectly possible.

I'll begin by noting that this clan of furballs does indeed have one particular inhabitant that goes against the grain of harmony. And that would be...

Rosie is the Queen, and she is certainly set in her ways. After putting in 21 years, though, I would say she is entitled to that. That being said, Rosie is the only furball in this home that seems absolutely against living in harmony with her fellow furballs. Aside from her littermate who passed away almost fifteen years ago, Rosie has always displayed a strong disliking toward other cats. She does tolerate dogs, once she gets used to them, that is. Surprisingly, she tends to prefer larger dogs, such as Astrid (and such as the dogs my family had as I grew up). But, Rosie really does not like other cats. And when I say that Rosie does not like other cats what I mean is that if Rosie catches sight of Evan or Thimble or any of Thimble's brothers she will go after them, screaming and hissing and slapping them around a bit.

I absolutely love all of my furballs dearly, but when it comes to the arrangement of my home I will admit that I make Rosie's happiness and health my main priority. She has been by my side for 21 years, and I grew up with her. After the loyalty she has shown me I never want her to feel as if she is being pushed aside, and I never want her to suffer any ailments as a result of undue stress.

So, how do I keep Rosie happy and healthy in the midst of so many young hooligan furballs that she doesn't even like? Well, Rosie does make it a bit easy for me by the fact that there are only two places in the house where she prefers to spend her time -- the living room and my bedroom. So, when Rosie is in either of those rooms all other animals are kept out or at least incapable of reaching Rosie. Making this task even easier is the fact there is actually one particular couch in the living room where Rosie spends most of her day. As Rosie eats and snoozes her way through the day on that couch, the other animals are denied access to the area with a variety of makeshift walls and barriers.

Rosie on her beloved couch. Note the food bowls, toys, and blankets and beds adorning her couch. She even has access to a litter box not far from the couch.
Now, do Astrid and Evan and the kittens ever try and manage to breach the barriers and reach Rosie's couch? Yes. But, Rosie always lets me know -- very loudly, in fact -- when there is an intruder. That's when I remove the intruder and cuddle Rosie until she's all cuddled out. I also usually have to go and console the intruder -- out of Rosie's view, of course -- because Rosie's punishment toward intruders can be very loud and alarming, although usually quite harmless otherwise.

Aside from Rosie, though, there has been good success integrating everyone into one big, happy, furry family. Of course, in getting Astrid, Evan, and the kittens all used to each other, their first encounters were from behind closed doors, when only noses and ears were used to make initial acquaintances. After that, instead of doors there were cages and baby gates and other such minimal barriers, so that the unfamiliar furballs could see each other but so that there could be no injurious fights in the case that someone felt uncomfortable around their new friends.

Evan and Astrid getting acquainted. Part of their introduction process involved cages, with one locked in a cage and the other investigating from outside the cage.
It may be hard to tell in this blurry picture, but Evan is reaching through the cage to pat Astrid on the head.
This one is very blurry, but in it the four very young kittens are in a cage with Astrid sniffing them and essentially begging to meet them.
Each time a new animal was brought into the family, after a few days of acclimating to each other through barriers, when I was certain that everyone seemed more intrigued than uncertain, barriers were removed. Face-to-face introductions were made, with heavy supervision, of course. At first, these direct interactions did not always last very long, as sometimes one or more of the furballs would start feeling a bit overwhelmed by their new friend(s). But over time the interactions grew longer and longer, until all the furballs (except for Rosie, of course) started to really enjoy hanging out together.

Astrid and Evan have become good friends. They usually get along very well, although sometimes Evan gets a little too cuddly for Astrid and she has to walk away from his advances.
Astrid and Evan playing. The rule is that, because Astrid is so much bigger, she has to lie down when playing with the cats. She usually does pretty well obeying this rule. Usually.
Astrid got to meet the kittens very early on, as she displayed significant interest in interacting with them. The kittens also seemed very eager to meet her as soon as they saw her. In this picture, although you can't see it, Astrid is on a leash and is being held back so that her enthusiasm wouldn't get the better of her or the kittens.
Evan was not sure about the kittens at first, but after getting used to them he now greatly enjoys playing with them. In the above picture you'll see little baby Toby chasing after Evan. The kittens sometimes think that Evan's dragging hind legs are toys to bat at, but he usually tolerates them well. Usually.
Now, are there times when the furballs squabble? Yes. Just as with humans, sometimes it's just not possible for everyone to be in a congenial, social mood. There are times when Astrid gets too hyperactive for Evan and the kittens. And there are times when Evan gets too overwhelmed by his kid sister Thimble and her brothers. In such cases, depending on the situation, certain furballs are separated from the others. Usually after a bit of a break from each other, though, all of the furballs can happily interact. Except for Queen Rosie, of course.

All hail the Queen.

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