“You should really write a book about those two,” the vet tech says. “You have the weirdest cats.”
For about 30 seconds, I entertain the idea of writing up a book proposal for one of those twee animal memoirs with a gooey watercolor cover and a subtitle about learning to love through the creatures in my life. Then I gag at the thought, and move on.
It’s been a few months since I updated everyone on Loki and Leila, and the short version of the story is that, no, my cats have not suddenly formed a heartfelt friendship. I don’t find them curled up together on chairs with their tails interlocked in a heart shape, purring in tandem. They don’t offer to share food, or romp in the living room together.
They don’t do much at all together, actually, because I still have to keep them separated.
But let’s back up a bit.
After the Great Feliway™ Failure, the vet and I decided to let them ride for a few months to see if they would work their situation out on their own. Unfortunately, they did not. Instead, every time they were in the same room together, Leila would growl, Loki would chase Leila, Leila would piss herself, and then she’d wedge herself behind the fridge or under the stairs.
This was clearly unproductive for everyone except Nature’s Miracle, so it was back to the drawing board. We put Leila on fluxoetine, better known by its brand name of Prozac. It’s used off-label in cats to address anxiety and “inappropriate elimination,” both of which she was suffering from. For the first few days, she did pretty well, but then she started developing an unfortunately common side effect and utterly lost her appetite.
She went from the Group Leader of the Clean Plate Club to barely sniffing at her dinner, even when I added stinky and appetizing things to her bowl. So we had to take her off the fluoxetine and let her levels go back to normal before trying anything else.
Enter lorazepam, aka Ativan, which is working like a treat inasmuch as that Leila’s gotten a lot more self-confident and she’s achieved Grand Master of Bladder Control status. She could practically star in an Ativan ad, except that I don’t think the feline market is big enough to justify the budgetary expenditure.
However, with Leila’s self-confidence came a new wrinkle. Loki, being a typical Nice Guy, feels very threatened by confident women. He likes his ladies meek and peeing themselves, not confidently striding across the living room as though they belong there. Hence, every time I open the separating door, he gallops through, looking for Leila.
If she’s under the stairs where she belongs, he’ll sit on his chair with a self-satisfied expression. If she’s not, or she crawls out from under the stairs once she thinks he’s gone away, he attacks her. Often without provocation.
People have always told me they’re scared of Loki, and now I get it. The cat who is putty in my hands is, regrettably, the world’s largest douchebag to everyone else.
So we’re keeping her on the Lorazepam and going back to basics; I feed them on either side of the door, and I keep it cracked open so they can see each other but not reach each other while they eat. And most of the time, the door is firmly shut, locking the cats into their own little worlds, which forces me to divide my time between the halves of the house. If I spend too much time on one side or the other, the opposing cat will accuse me of favoritism, and I’ll have to make it up.
Periodically I open the door for a bit in an attempt to get the cats used to each other. If both of them are asleep, it goes very well, because neither of them realizes the door is open. As soon as one of them does, it’s time to slink under the stairs or lunge off the bed, depending on who catches a whiff of the enemy first.
Last night, I achieved a solid hour of actually pretty positive interaction by opening the door while Loki was asleep. I sprawled out on the carpet with Leila, with my back to the door to make it clear I wasn’t afraid of no Loki. When he inevitably figured out the door was open and bounded in, her eyes widened, but he’d already blocked her escape route, so she sat frozen on the floor, unsure about what to do.
Loki paused, flaring his nostrils and huffing to himself. Leila trembled. He lay down, pointedly lying with his back to her. I started gingerly petting both cats, assuring them they were being very good. Loki occasionally flicked his ear back in interest and eventually rolled all the way over on his back, displaying his epic stomach.
Gradually, he shifted further and further away: Point made, he seemed to say, until he was resting in a patch of sun by the stairs. Leila got up the nerve to change positions, and while he sat upright in shock that she would do such a thing, he didn’t lunge for her.
I painstakingly got up and retrieved a bag of cat treats, afraid that in the three seconds it would take me, Loki would cut loose on poor Leila. When I turned around and headed back toward the cats, though, they were in the same positions as before, warily eying each other but not moving.
I gradually extended a treat to each cat. Loki gobbled his down and immediately looked for another. Leila grabbed hers more carefully, and growled to herself while she ate it. I repeated the process until she stopped growling, and was even willing to change position to come a little closer for a treat.
That’s good enough for the day, I thought, and I lured Loki out of the living room with a treat so I could close the door.