Tuesday, July 08, 2008

One Cat, Two Cats, One Bear, Two....

In the beginning, there was a townhouse. Cold lonely corners sat idle as Beloved and I ground our teeth at work. Couches had unused spaces. When one went out, the other ate alone.

Then there was Chairman Mao the Burmese Cat. Mao brought love, perhaps an overwhelming amount of it. He was there in the morning, at the toilet, on the couch, as we walked from the couch to the kitchen, stood in the kitchen, walked back to the couch, usually sweet but always needing more.

We decided such an affectionate boy needed a friend, so we found a girly friend. To be precise, his half sister by breeding (an issue simplified through the snip). He snapped completely, and this blog still gets more google hits from people searching about hissing cats and kittens (still top of the Google world as I write this) than anything else.

He settled, they became close to inseparable. But there was damage. Mao has had a psycho streak ever since, culminating in a powerful bite to my wrist just a few months before Bear's arrival that had him mighty close to a visit to the vet or, almost as bad, being put in a plane and sent off to my parents in the tropics.

Since Bear he has largely controlled himself, something helped by the fact that when on occasion he's turned towards her with a tooth showing he's suddenly found himself flying across the living room. Unfortunately, love him dearly and completely understand his frustrations, but some things meet zero tolerance.

Minh-Minh is a sweet, sweet girly who has never hissed in anger. But she has been shaped by her strong older brother and is always a bit on edge- something I put down to being chased around and pounced on constantly as she grew up. She is touchy and nervy and her tail bushes up at the drop of a pin.

My advice, aside, for anyone looking to get a burmese or similar super-affectionate breed, is get two at the same time. Your life will be easier.

Then came a Bear. They have generally been good, and expressed very little outright hostility, but neither enjoyed the change and both still come running out for affection the moment she's off to sleep or child care. Minh-Minh went through some depression I think, and is still quite needy and vocal about it.

Now a Bear faces the same experience. I sincerely hope she doesn't snap like Mao!

We read and talked extensively before deciding on the 'sibling gap'. Closer means more overlap, competition, and jealousy potential, but also the ability to relate as something like friends when they are older. Further apart means greater separation, both good and bad, until at around 7 years the literature suggests they grow up much like only-children.

Selfishly, closer means getting the early period with lower earning and travel ability out of the way, while later means a good break, chance to have a life in between and get finances and health (especially for poor Beloved) back on track.

We opted for close for both reasons above. We also take nothing for granted, and will make hay while the sun shines. Readers of this blog may remember me posting about a certain lump- I don't assume the landing gear will still be in tip top shape in 5 years or even 2.

Close ages means potential jealousy, and for 'classic' sibling patterns to emerge strongly as the first and second vie to differentiate and find their place. We are both affectionate people and Bear, like Mao in a former life, is used to being 100% focus of everything.

I have a new job, I usually make it home for bath time now and I still have daddy day. I have capacity to help out next time around, to be there with Bear, or with her sibling so Beloved can share the love around. We will try, so hard, to get this right.

It's a little scary.

But I love them both so much, I think it can be done.

I have a good family. I don't know if I expected to be so happy with family, to have all my discontents located in the career and self actualisation side of life. I think I might have expected the opposite, if you asked me 10 years ago.

Wouldn't have it any other way though...

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