Our fosters, Freya and Thor, are still with us. Let’s be honest: They’re not going anywhere.
The younger male cats were delighted. More playmates!
Thor in particular was accepted by Derv Jr. & Co. immediately. Now they play-wrestle and run races with him. Of course, they also cuff him when he gets out of line. But I inevitably find Mr. Thor sleeping all nice and comfy between Derv and his brother Cheshire later.
Will a Male Cat Accept a Male Kitten? Sure.
A long, long time ago, I saw a similar scenario play out between the first Dervish and his “little buddy,” Zorro. Dervish, our “big orange-and-white guy,” was about a year old when we were waylaid by the stray kitten with the Abyssinian-looking face and mottling.
Zorro was just what Dervish needed. The boisterous young cat been living with 3 adult females — Cricket, Kilah and Tikvah — and none of them had the slightest interest in playing with him.
Not only did my male cat “accept” this male kitten, but they became best friends. Dervish would lie in wait under a chair or the bed, stretch out a long white paw and pull his new friend under. A glorious wrestling match would follow. Sometimes the older cat would display a curiously paternal attitude toward Zorro and groom him before setting to work on his own fur. They’d spend hours together, napping companionably together or stretched out on the wide windowsills of the enclosed back porch, checking out the wildlife.
Years later, a similar bond developed between Bandit, a young adult cat, and Topaz, the Flamepoint Siamese kitten who had just come to live with us. Topaz was very needy, and Bandit was gentle and kind to him. For the rest of their lives together, Topaz really did treat the big black cat as his dad.
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Rules of the Game
Of course, there’s a certain protocol involved with 2 male cats (one older, one young) meeting for the first time.
In her book It’s A Cat’s Life, Anitra Frazier describes the meeting between her male cat, Big Purr, and her foster kitten, Ralph. While the adult cat was trying to make up his mind about the new kit on the block, Ralph flipped onto his back and wriggled about until his belly was right smack under Big Purr’s nose…which translated as “I submit to you” in cat.
“The kitten’s posture, a powerful message of helpless vulnerability had overridden all the other messages Purr had picked up,” Frazier explains, and Big Purr immediately began grooming the newcomer.
Within a short time, “Uncle Purr” was “conduct[ing] training maneuvers all over the apartment, chasing across window sills and over the furniture — Purr in the lead and, later, Purr trailing behind.”
Who’s the Boss?
In all the above cases, the adult males had already been neutered, and their alpha-cat urges were pretty toned down. But occasionally a cat does come along who’s a bully despite having been fixed.
Until recently, our Gremlin terrorized his share of kittens. He would sneak up from behind and mount them. Once in a while, he tried this with Circe, our Blue Abyssinian female. But his targets were usually the young male cats, Magwitch and Ricky. He gave up on Ricky pretty quickly, probably because the Ragdoll-cross soon surpassed Gremlin in size. Magwitch, however, was a frequent target until Mama Phoebe — who loves her adopted son dearly — went after the gray-and-white bully.
These attacks were never sexual. Gremlin was simply trying to assert his dominance over the younger cats.
How can you defuse the tension? Give the older cat extra attention frequently does the trick, as writer Patricia Curtis observes. She recalls how a friend’s cat, Pushkin, bullied her new 3-month-old male kitten, Llama, at first. But the caretaker made sure that Pushkin got extra attention, “even to the extent of letting him sleep in her bedroom while the newcomer retired in the kitchen.” Eventually, Pushkin “adopted a rather fatherly attitude toward Llama, and today they are friends.”
As with so many things in the cat world, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Thor became part of the gang here as easily as he did because he’s very much a cat’s cat.
This morning, I came downstairs and found the formerly feral kitten sharing the top perch on the cat tree with Ricky. As far as Thor’s concerned, he has just traded up to a way better cat colony.