Friday, August 20, 2010

Feline Protocols

Getting Back to Normal

It appears to me that there must be a set of cat protocols for dealing with nearly every situation that might arise. How else can I explain what happened around my house while Ebony was living here, and what happened after he passed on?

When Ebony first arrived from his most recent home where he had lived with a menagerie of other cats and dogs, he was old, thin and grouchy. During the time that he was with us, none of that changed very much. As the time went by, he seemed a bit less grouchy, but, like anyone who is not feeling well, he didn't particularly welcome large amounts a frivolity. Understandable, of course, however, why should that effect the way in which Quint and Hedge behaved when they were not interacting with Ebony?

The behavior change wasn't drastic, Hedge and Quint would still play chase with each other and tended to nap in many of the same spots as they had before, but there were some things that they stopped doing and areas that they would come to avoid. Initially, it may have had some relation to the huge quantities of fleas that Ebony was depositing wherever he went. After we got the fleas under control, though, Quint and Hedge still avoided or only briefly visited some areas where, previously, they had been quite comfortable. They stopped climbing in the cat tree, napping on the bed, and they avoided some the window perches that Ebony favored.

Now that Ebony has left us, the boys have resumed all of their briefly suspended behavior and we have risen back up to the playful and affectionate group that we had been before.

It seems that once Hedge and Quint figured out what was going on with Ebony, i.e. that he didn't feel well and was in a rapid decline, they adopted a set of "sick-room" protocols that they then applied while Ebony was living with us. Since he was unable and unwilling to engage in play activities, and not the least interested in becoming part of the feline "herd," Quint and Hedge left him alone for the most part. They let Ebony have those areas of the house where he felt most comfortable and accommodated themselves to the needs of their ailing housemate. I believe it's analogous to our own behavior when we find ourselves in the presence of the injured, sick and dying. We don't have a party or do much laughing and joking when we visit someone that isn't feeling well. It just doesn't seem appropriate, most of the time. I know that it is difficult to feel very much joy, or maintain a sense of humor, when your attention is on enduring whatever your body is trying to inflict upon you. Us humans get that and adjust our behavior accordingly. Cats get it, too.

I appreciate the efforts Quint and Hedge contributed to helping make Ebony's last few months as pleasant as possible. It was a very kind and generous thing for them to do. Today, though, it made me very happy to see them getting back to their happy-go-lucky lives. I like it when we can all share a happy moment. I missed that, and I'm glad to see those moments have returned to our family.

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