There it was, the kitten enclosure at the animal shelter, filled with a dozen or two bouncing, squirming bundles of feline adorableness. I was ready.
My beloved elderly three-legged cat, Rugby, had succumbed to heart failure the previous month, right before my trip to England. Now I was back, primed for the only remedy for grieving over a lost cat – a kitten. This time (I’ve been through this many times) I was strongly influenced by my time spent across the pond. This time, like the Royal Family, I would acquire two kittens, an “heir and a spare,” and in honor of my English forbears, I already had the names picked out – Victoria and Albert. So I obviously needed a girl and a boy.
The choice was easy – they chose me. Albert was a pure gray guy with a peculiar spot (harmless, I was assured) on one eye, and Victoria a beautiful calico and white. Did I mind she had a crooked tail? Their little flaws made them all the more appealing.
Victoria and Albert lived together in perfect harmony for 6 years. After a year or so it became clear that they were even falling into the pattern of their royal namesakes. Albert grew into a lithe and muscular cat, active and curious but at the same time loving and craving human companionship. Victoria grew – well, she just grew.
Like Queen Victoria, her girth increased as did her haughty aloofness and she became a waddling rotund bundle of feline entitlement.
Despite their differences, they got along swimmingly. They napped near each other, shared their food (although guess who tended to get a bit more than her share), chased their cat toys with delirious abandon when in the mood. They would wrestle playfully, such sessions invariably ending up with one grooming the other’s head and ears.
Until one night, in the deep dark hours, a month or so ago. My husband and I were rudely awakened by the sounds of a cat fight – the kind usually attributed to alley cats in mortal combat over a tasty morsel of food or an alluring lady cat. Only this one was right outside our bedroom door.
We opened the door to witness Victoria shrieking down the hall until she cornered Albert, at which point they came together like Godzilla vs Rodan, only with more appalling sounds. Caterwauling is aptly named – growling and screaming only a few of the sound effects.. Ears were back, fangs and very sharp claws were everywhere, fur was flying.
At the end of the first skirmish, they moved downstairs to continue the war, one chasing the other until cornered, and then the mortal combat continued.
We eventually got them into separate rooms, where the sound effects continued but at least they couldn’t get at each other. We returned to an uneasy sleep.
Next morning the growling and howling recommenced, with a lot of circling like a couple of furry sumo wrestlers. (well, one of them looked like a sumo wrestler)
The active hostilities recommenced. It quickly became clear that Victoria was the aggressor, but Albert, when cornered,
gave as good as he got, and most of the clumps of fur scattered about the house were white.
After trying everything in our rudimentary anti cat fight repertoire – water spray bottle, wrapping in large towels, speaking sternly (yeah, that was really effective) and the ultimate closing of doors to forestall further catastrophe, we actually called the vet. He has known us and all of our cats for years, and he was flummoxed. His only suggestion was tranquilizer collars (for them, not for me, which I thought might have been a better idea)
We got the collars, which emit pheromones and purport to have a calming effect on the wearers. Getting them on was predictably dicey; Albert enjoys human contact but only on his own terms, which emphatically did not include putting something around his neck.
Victoria was slower, and we managed to get the stylish purple collar around her not unsubstantial neck, reasoning that calming one of them, especially the one who was being a b, might do.
The ensuing days saw at first a wary détente,
followed by peaceful coexistence and then, blissfully, back to normal. Victoria somehow managed to rid herself of the collar, yet they continued to get along as if their brief foray into Armageddon had never happened.
What had happened? Some people suggested it might have been the recent full moon, the ‘blood” moon. As a former teacher I know it affects kids (scientifically unproven, as is the sugar effect, but just ask any teacher) but it lasted too long. A cataclysm resulting from global warming? Why not? We blame everything else on it. But after a few more weeks of peace, we settled on the most logical answer.
I had been volunteering at the animal shelter for several weeks. The bad catitude erupted at this time. I stopped volunteering due to a cat bite that had become infected. The bad catitude diminished and finally disappeared. Our vet agreed that the residual smell of dozens of alien pussycats on my clothing had probably been too much for our coddled pair and had driven them over the edge. In the future I plan on finding an alternative way of volunteering, perhaps with small humans.
End of story? I spent an afternoon with a friend who has two St. Bernards and a cat. We hugged goodbye. At home, I sat at the kitchen table trying to do a crossword puzzle with Albert on my lap “helping” me. Around the corner slunk Victoria, ears back, growling, approaching my chair. Albert’s ears went back. He growled as his extended claws bit into my thigh.
“This is not going to end well,” thought I. And it didn’t.