Thursday, October 20, 2005

My Sister, My Dominatrix

My cats are sisters, so therefore should be about equal in dominance, right? It's true that Aliera was the runt of the litter, but that doesn't necessarily prove anything. When Hilde and I adopted sisters Bastet and Lilith, Lilith was the runt of the litter; in fact, we had to wait to get her till the next day because she'd only just gotten big enough to be neutered. When the lady from the adoption group brought her to us, she said the kitten would be groggy for a while, not to feed her, and not to disturb or excite her, just let her sleep.

She forgot to tell Lilith. The cat lady had barely gotten out the door before Lilith was climbing to the top of the cage (a five-foot cube we use when new cats are introduced) and yowling for attention. When food was put in the cage, she growled her sister away from the dish and ate it all. And she was super-cuddly and affectionate and curious.

I can't recall any contentions between them; they were more likely to cuddle up together, or take turns chasing each other down the hall. Probably part of this was because once they were out of the cage, which was all the time except feeding time once the adult cats had accepted their presence, Bastet spent her time in Hilde's room at night, Lilith in mine. The cage was only so that they could be fed there, and the grown cats couldn't snarf up the kitten food, which they preferred to their own.

Aliera, perhaps as a result of her runthood, is the feistier sister--very ready with teeth and claws. She is the one who usually tackles Sethra, and Sethra usually runs off. But if I put down a single dish of food, Sethra will hog it, even if it's big enough for two cats to eat simultaneously (as when I put down a steak bone). It may be simply that Aliera is less food-oriented; on Cat Food Nights, she usually leaves more than half of her portion, which Sethra is happy to finish. And she still hasn't figured out how to eat a treat: she just stares at it for a while, sniffs it, licks it--and at this point, Sethra appears and eats it.

I don't know enough about the significance of grooming behavior to interpret it; I do know that in some species, being groomed signifies dominance, while in others, it is grooming another. Mine tend to indulge in simultaneous pugnacious face-washing and other mutual grooming, which makes it hard to tell anyway, and explains why it is Aliera who gets the hairballs even though it is Sethra who is the fluffy cat.

In playing with toys, it is Sethra who is the more active and aggressive. She will not share the feather toy or the toy-on-a-stick, and she will play toss-and-fetch all night if I would cooperate.

On the whole, then, it would appear that Sethra is the dominant cat, even though Aliera is actually larger and heavier. (Sethra looks like more than a match for her because she is so fluffy.) I don't know what if anything it signifies, but Aliera is the one more likely to be friendly with neighbors and strangers and tries the hardest to get out the door. But she is the most aggressive in paw-to-paw combat, too. So the actual dominance situation between them remains a mystery.

When I awoke this morning, they were curled up in a ball together on the foot of my bed, snoozing happily.

Peace, it's wonderful.


3 comments:

KathyK said...

It's nice when they are peacefully asleep. Too bad mine have to stomp all over me before they settle.

talpianna said...

Sometimes you step on them, sometimes they step on you...

Mousewynne said...

Yeah - and what's with this absolute need to walk across your head at 4:00 am just to get to the other side of the bed?