Interspecies Sibling Rivalry: A Comparative Study in Feline Psychology

So, before Dan and I had a kid, we had cats. We are unapologetic cat people. Our lovely kitties – Emily and Bella – were our like our first kids and for a while there we projected our parental energies onto them. Now, we didn’t go overboard and sign them up for blueberry facials or anything like that, but we doted on them and nurtured their feline idiosyncrasies. We love them to pieces. So what that they eat organic holistic cat food with blueberries and zucchini…

Anyway, along came the kid and the girls didn’t really know what to do about the new arrival. Emily took to pacing and meowing every time Ryan cried for an extended period of time. Bella (always the timid and skittish one) seemed to take it all in stride. Ryan slept a lot and didn’t move very much, so she could roll with the change. We fretted a bit, but in the blur of new-arrival-sleep-deprivation, we couldn’t really pull ourselves together to do anything to lessen the cats’ distress. We fed them and patted them on the heads from time to time. We thought we had it all sorted out and understood our girls’ kitty psyches.

Emily enjoyed testing out the gear, so long as Ryan wasn’t in the room.

Bella jumped into the new adventure with gusto. She has always been the playful and cuddly one.

Over the course of the first few months after Ryan arrived, we all settled into the new rhythm of the house.

Emily kept her distance when it all got to be just a bit too much.

Bella generally seemed to enjoy herself.

But six months in everything started to change. Ryan started rolling, then crawling, and took to shrieking and babbling as babies often do. The girls just didn’t know what to make of it all. Ryan, for her part, thought the cats were the most exciting thing ever (she still does for that matter). Here’s  a little video clip of her fascination with the kitties: Baby Stalking (click and then click again).

Emily came out of her shell and started to investigate the situation.

Bella started to show signs of stress, but couldn't stay away. She took to exhibiting jealous behavior whenever Dan played with Ryan.

And now, nearly a year into this adventure, we have real evidence about how cats manage stress and what successful feline coping skills look like.

These days, Emily is back to her old self. Grumpy, but still lovable. Lesson learned: Aloof cats are happy cats.

Bella, is on kitty anti-anxiety meds and isn't particularly happy. Evidently cats have a really hard time managing stress and it can cause all sorts of physical ailments. Lesson learned: sometimes too much love and attachment is a bad thing.

It’s been rough around here lately. Needless to say, we have contemplated buying stock in Nature’s Miracle (can’t recommend the stuff highly enough) – we’ve been buying it by the gallon. We’ve also taken to spraying Feliway all over the house. It’s not cheap, but we’ll try anything at this point. The vet has recommended that we take Bella in for a clinical trial Reiki treatment – that’s right ENERGY WORK FOR CATS. How crazy is that?!? What can I say – we’re desperate.

Perhaps we need a Hartmann Household Two-State Solution? Or maybe just lessons in feline diplomacy…

We’ll see how this all plays out. Should be a hoot. Really.

~Susan

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