Mitsy and Suzi

December, 2021

So how is Suzi doing with the new feline sharing her living space? That depends on the circumstances. They have been nose-to-nose without a hiss or a growl. But Mitsy has also been chasing Suzi; in play and also in the frustration that Suzi seems to be unwilling to make real contact. It seems that Suzi, probably due to her early experiences in an overpopulated hoarder’s place, does not know how to communicate with cats. Well, that is not entirely true…

When she first came to live with us, Dixie was the resident cat in the place of power. My little tortoise female was by then already a senior with chronic renal disease, who spent most of her day sleeping in a heated bed. Nevertheless… she was, for all intents and purposes, the queen of the castle. And she was never very fond of Suzi, although she tolerated her without too much fuss. At the time, it was Suzi who tried to reach out and join her in her bed, but Dixie was never interested and sometimes hissed at her.

Roles are reversed

The roles are reversed now: Mitsy is the newcomer and Suzi is in the place of power. And Mitsy is the one who is frustrated. We saw her interact with several other strays and ferals when she still lived outside. It was never a problem. She has a friendly character but it seems to us that she does not entirely understand why her feline reaching out signals are not understood by Suzi. And the issue is mutual.

Suzi and Dixie were only together for 2 years – then Dixie passed. And Suzi became an only cat. Who only talked to and interacted with her 2 resident humans: us. And as much as we sometimes pretend to be felines, we are not 🙂 So Suzi seems to have forgotten about cat language. She is obviously interested in Mitsy; she is a regular in her cat room. And she often follows her around in the house.

Suzi exploring the cat room, unaware that Mitsy (right upper corner) is watching her…

But from what we know about her physical condition, Suzi has pretty poor eyesight. We think that she sometimes has double vision and she certainly does not see very well. Who knows how many copies of Mitsy she really sees…? Oftentimes, like in this video, she does not see her at all…

Upside down!

Suzi has been through a lot with recurring ear-infections and tooth issues. In 2020 the vet recommended that we had all of her teeth pulled because she suffered from something called Stomatitis. An auto-immune condition where the body attacks the gums, causing infections that cause incredible oral pain. It was an operation with some risk. We decided to do it, as a last resort. Because Suzi kept losing weight, was constantly hungry, but in too much pain to eat. It took her a long time to recover from this dental intervention, but it did work. She still eats kibble (with her now hardened gums) and she is a lot happier. It is her focus on humans that now influences her interactions with Mitsy. Who speaks only feline and is currently learning how to communicate with us, humans. It is the world upside down, for both of them, really!

One of the very few moments that Mitsy is playing, unaware of Suzi’s presence…

Towel therapy

We have found a way for Mitsy to vent her frustration: the cat room is covered with old towels. We did this initially so that we could play with her by hiding the wand toy underneath. Which she loves, because it triggers her rodent-hunting skills. The positive side-effect of the towels is that she can grab them, bunch them up and bits and kick them when she is frustrated.

It is a simple tool to help her deal with her obvious disappointment about Suzi. She has not given up, though. She reaches out and it is beautiful to see proof of the fact that felines have a language of their own.

Body language

She is showing Suzi that she is not a threat, by lying down and putting herself in a lower position.

When she is wildly playing with us with the wand tool, she slows down considerably when she notices that Suzi is close by.

She invites Suzi to join by walking up to her and trying to go nose-to-nose. If only Suzi would not react with growling in fear… Both from time to time paw each other but we have not seen any serious fights, fortunately. That would be the only reason for us to consider finding Mitsy a new home. We really don’t want to do that so we will give the process a lot of time. If they can end up tolerating each other that will be enough. Of course, ideally, we would love to see them share the same bed, but we are not kidding ourselves. It will take patience and time.

Wonder how we know Mitsy gets frustrated sometimes? Look at the picture below. Taken on Suzi’s cat chair. Mitsy just jumped up there to say ‘hello!’ and scared the living daylights out of Suzi, who pawed and growled at Mitsy, jumped on the floor and ran off…

The face of frustration… A picture says more than a thousand verbal explanations…