Our Wonderful Beta Cat Has Brought Four Shy Cats Out of Their Shells
Integrating cats into healthy cat families and growing happy cat families is indeed tricky business. But it is easier with a beta. Happy Cat has shown us that again and again and again and again.
Simone lived under the bed. She had been afraid of her shadow ever since we rescued her from human bullying on the street. Born a stray, she found houses intimidating, but there was safety under the bed. Of course, she would come out to eat, and we would cheer whenever she chose to spend some time in the sun. Then, a couple of years later, along came Happy Cat. While Simone still finds security in being under the bed, she comes out a lot more often and interacts with Happy Cat, the only cat she chooses to interact with. He grooms her and cuddles her, and she seeks him out daily, usually in the evening. She has become unfearful of humans as well and lets herself be picked up, combed (she is a long-haired Himalayan so grooming both by cats and humans is essential. She even purrs when petted. Yes, working with her helped, but Happy Cat really gets the bulk of the credit for bringing her out of her shell -- uh, out from under the bed.
Snyezhka, our Siamese mix (think the mix is Tabby) was a brave little soul, and we rescued her from a fight with two tom cats. She never wanted to go out on the street again, but she was at first a bit nervous being in a house. Then, she and Happy Cat came eye to eye and there was clear, instant recognition. We had rescued Happy Cat from the street a couple of months earlier, and based on observing their behavior when they were living on the street, we believe that Happy Cat, who is a gentle giant, protected small Snyezhka, probably from the time she was a kitten. Upon seeing her, he immediately walked over and started grooming her, and she started rubbing against him -- clearly a pal she had missed.
Then along came Bobolink, a black domestic longhair with a tail that looks like a feather duster. Originally named Boulder by the person who rescued him, he would not move from one spot, even to go to the bathroom. She put him on a pad. She was going to have to return him to the street when I learned about him and offered to take him. He jumped up into the little cave on our cat tree when we brought him home and put him in the cat room and would not move from there although when no one was in the room with him, he would use the litter robot. After a couple of weeks of his bring bolted to one spot, I brought in Happy Cat to begin the socialization process. When I came back, they were playing together with a shared toy. After a few more sessions and a move to an all-the-time open door, he started roaming the house, looking for Happy Cat, I sent my friend videos of the two of them wresting and of Bobolink (had to change the name; he no longer resembled a boulder) running pell-mell down the hallway, leaping into the air, and pouncing on Happy Cat. She could scarcely believe it, but we had video evidence. As Bobolink become more active with Happy Cat, he became more active with us as well and now comes and asks to interact.
Most recently, we acquired a one-eyed cat named Jack, also from the street and also from the friend who rescues and homes cats born on the street. Jack was another she thought she would have to put back out on the street; he was so fearsome and shy and hissy. He would not let anyone near him. He was younger than Bobolink, and that made a big difference. I kept him for a couple of days only in the cat room alone before ushering in Happy Cat to socialize him. When I opened the door a couple of hours later to give Happy Cat a break, Jack followed him out of the room, then onto the catio, then around the house, and has not once holed up in the cat room or anywhere else since. But he has become Happy Cat's shadow (though he will cautiously let a human touch him). The two have become inseparable, more frequently than not sharing a sleeping spot, and it is not uncommon to find Happy Cat cuddling him, as in the picture above.
So, Happy Cat never became the alpha cat; in fact, we do not have an alpha cat anymore. I guess, once a beta, always a bet. That is good because "beta cats make wonderful cat buddies," says The Way of Cats website.
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