Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Intriguing Bit Of Feline Communication

Today I let Nikki out of the spare bedroom (where she'd been convalescing since her vet visit this past Sunday). She is mostly back to having the run of the house (but NOT the outdoors!) with the other cats now. So far everything seems to be going very well on that front...Shadow has continued to hiss at her if she gets close, but there's been no actual fighting, which is of course quite a relief.

To give some background for the video and commentary to follow in this post, Brodie is very shy around most humans (other than me and Matt) but he's a regular social butterfly when it comes to other cats. If you're feline, Brodie wants to be your friend. And he's been trying to make friends with Nikki pretty much since she got here in January.

Nikki, however (being eight years older and not all that keen on other cats even when she politely tolerates them) has not really seemed interested in reciprocating. This doesn't bother me -- I don't see why it should, so long as everyone is at least civil to everyone else. Really I'm just happy to be able to have four cats in the same household who aren't hell-bent on tearing each other to shreds. But it's still just incredibly interesting watching all the intercat negotiations that occur inevitably in a multi-feline environment.

Anyway, I was folding laundry this afternoon and Nikki and Brodie were resting on the bed throughout most of this process. Nikki spent a while getting really frustrated at not being able to groom herself properly due to the cone, and Brodie watched this entire affair with considerable interest. Then, (as the first video shows) at some point Brodie started rolling over on his back, blinking at Nikki, and doing ridiculously cute things with his paws! And while Nikki didn't crawl over for a snuggle or anything, she didn't get angry either.

And then, about 15 minutes later, I filmed this:

Basically the second video shows what I believe to be Nikki's response to Brodie's earlier friendly overtures. They still don't end up cozying together in a purr-pile or anything, and at one point they sort of seem to startle one another a bit...but I was quite thoroughly amazed to see Nikki acting this way toward another cat. (And no, she isn't on pain meds anymore, so this couldn't have been due to chemically-lowered inhibitions). Again I leave it entirely up to the cats that live here whether they want to be friends or just coexist or whatnot, but this is still really cool. It would be nice for Nikki, I think, if she knew she had a feline "ally" in the household. both these videos, it's worth paying close attention to the kitties' tails. You can sort of pick up on varying levels of curiosity, apprehension, etc., just from watching the little flicky movements they make at different times.

Finally, no, the videos aren't captioned, but I'm not really saying anything of interest in the narrations anyway. (I almost uploaded them with the sound off entirely because really it's the cats' actions that are the most interesting part, but there's this one bit where Brodie makes a seriously adorable mew that I am hoping is audible.)


  1. Wow... in the first one, when Nikki is still nonplussed about the communication going on, she makes these tail movements that are exactly like how Fey looks when she's not happy about people making overtures to her. I see a lot of similarities between Nikki and Fey, and an almost wholly different set of similarities between Cora and Fey.

  2. Amanda: Yeah I've also noted the different sets of similarities between Fey/Nikki and Fey/Cora. It's hard to articulate them, but I know the Cora-similarity has something to do with "intensity"/figuring-out-ness, and the Nikki-similarity has something to do with protection/guarding (and the high level of insistence on respect that goes along with that and comes out in their body language a lot).

    And re. Nikki still being nonplussed in the first video...yep, that seems an accurate assessment. It was really interesting to watch how she seemed to sort of mull the situation over for a while before responding in (what I'm pretty sure was) a friendly way to Brodie.

    She definitely still doesn't seem entirely sure about any of the younger cats, but if I had to guess her attitude toward Brodie in the second video it would probably be something like "well, maybe you're turning out to be an okay guy, but don't push your luck!"

  3. She was definitely trying to let Brodie know that she wanted to be friends, but then he moved too suddenly, and she got skittish.


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