Since our 3 girl cats and 2 boy cats get along together just
about as well as little human girls and boys do, fighting, screaming
and causing bloodshed if not closely supervised, we have developed a
"shift" system at our house.
The girls have the run of the house
from breakfast until mid-afternoon, and the boys have their freedom
from mid-afternoon until breakfast. We have a couple of spare
bedrooms since we have no children, so both the girls and the boys
have their own private rooms with food, water, litter box, toys and
bedding when they're not "free". (I've lived in places that weren't
as nice and had incoming mortar and sniper fire too, but I've never
coughed up a hair ball, so I guess life is tough all around.)
When we first started the shift change arrangement, there was a
noticeable lack of enthusiasm. The cats going "off-shift" and into
their room would hide and run away and draw blood on the shift
change coordinator (me). Cats are very clever, nothing is so hard to
find as a cat that does not want to be found.
I finally resorted to the age-old technique that has worked since
pre-history, that gets things done in every government and business
and back alley in the world - bribery. If the boys go obediently to
their room in the morning, they get their breakfast. If the girls go
obediently to their room in the afternoon, they get their favorite
After all the years I spent in school, darn right I can outsmart
Here's a typical afternoon shift change in action.
This is Ms Annabelle. She's our senior cat and small but bossy.
The boys don't like her because they think she's a feminist. She'll
sit on your lap and be friendly, but if you pick her up, she'll
slash anything she can reach with her razor sharp claws. (If you try
to trim her claws, you'll get slashed and maybe bitten, but other
than that, she's a real sweetie.)
I call Ms Annabelle the "guard cat" and I ask her to watch the
house whenever I go out on an errand or whatever. She is the only
cat I have ever known who growls and yaps like a dog and charges the
door when someone steps on the porch.
She always seems to stay alert when I ask her to be the guard
kitty, and then, when I get home she smiles and rolls on the floor
to be tickled and petted and praised for doing such a good guarding
This is Chloe. She talks a lot. Most of it is boring gossip (I
think). One day we had a deep discussion about the significance of
talking with cats. I forget what her point was.
This is Phoebe, Chloe's sister. Phoebe "thinks outside the box".
That doesn't mean that she's creative or imaginative. It means that
she pees on the floor beside the litter box upstairs at least once
every night. The vet says there's nothing physically wrong with her.
We have a shower curtain liner on the floor under the box area and a
"puppy pad" for her convenience.
The girls must always be herded to the stairs in the
proper order. Phoebe, then Chloe, then Annabelle. If they approach
the stairs in any other order, there will be chaos caused by
bolters, refusals and the dreaded "run and hide" move.
Once they're on the stairs and moving, it's like herding the cows
back to the barn for the evening, they meander along and go to their
room and await their treats.
Annabelle is always the last one in, making sure that neither of
the other girls got lost on the way.
After the girls are in their room, they get their treats, fresh
water in their bowl, the litter box is cleaned, the puppy pad
changed, if needed. Then, with their door safely closed, it's time
Let the boys out.
Happy and Leo are always anxious to get out of their room to
freedom in the afternoon. They're usually waiting at the door and
rush out as soon as it's opened. Happy is a very intelligent cat and
noticed that doorknobs have some connection with opening closed
doors. He jumps up and grabs the knob with his front paws, and
swings there, kicking the paint off the door with his back claws.
Thus you see the sheet of shredded cardboard hanging from the inside
doorknob to protect the door.
Leo's first stop after getting out is always the kitchen where he
cleans out the girl's leftover breakfast dishes.
Some cats are picky, finicky eaters who are hard to please. Leo
is not one of those cats.
Happy is more into a high-fiber diet. He eats paper, card board,
plastic, silk plants, almost anything except cat food.
Happy grew up thinking his name was "No Dammit". Lately he's been
acting more like a "Happy" since the vet prescribed fish-flavored
Prozac for him.