Friday, November 5, 2010

Brodie, The Sensitive Cat

What do I mean by "sensitive" when using such a term to refer to a cat like Brodie? Well, mainly I mean that Brodie is keenly perceptive, hyper-alert to household goings-on, liable to seem "shy" (due to hiding when strangers come around), and very attached to routines.

(In the photo below, Brodie peers through the rungs of one of the dining chairs he likes to sit on.)

He is drawn to details (as a baby he very quickly noticed the string his dangly toys were suspended from and often found them more interesting than the object at the end) and has an extremely long memory...I've often seen him digging under the sofa cushions for toys lost there weeks previously.

He is also (as I've mentioned before) exceedingly polite and highly sociable with other cats. When Shadow first arrived home (three weeks after Brodie and Cora) it was as if the two brothers had never been took Cora much longer to adjust to yet another boy in the house. And when Nikki arrived this past January, Brodie was the first to greet her, an act which mainly consisted of him following her at a courteous distance and occasionally attempting to sniff her tail.

(Photo below shows Nikki and Brodie kittyloafing together on the sofa, sharing space across a small but respectful gap)

For such a young cat Brodie definitely seems to exhibit an uncannily high degree of subtlety and restraint. His presence in the household seems to provide a sort of harmonizing influence...I always get the sense that if he were absent (perish the thought) for any length of time, things would quickly descend into inter-cat chaos due to the other three resident felines having somewhat "flashier" personalities. Brodie, in other words, is the cat who sits between two other cats who aren't getting along, and suddenly all is calm.

So, certainly Brodie's sensitivity serves him (and the intercat dynamic at work here) quite well in a variety of circumstances. However, he also has his particular challenges, and one of those has had me doing a fair bit of head-scratching recently. Basically, he's had an upsurge in dinnertime anxiety over the past week or so. His appetite seems fine, and I can't see anything wrong with his teeth or mouth (and in general he's not acting "painy"), but he's become very fixated on the front door of the house.

For the past few days he's been going up to his food dish (I feed all three younger cats at the same time, but in separate dishes spaced a few feet apart in the kitchen), sniffing and perhaps licking once or twice at the contents, but then just standing there over his dish staring at the front door with his ears pricked up in "high alert" mode. And if he so much as hears any noise outside -- a bird rustling in the bushes, or a dog walking by -- he will run off and hide in another room.

Meanwhile, Shadow and Cora will have finished their food, and of course one of them (usually Shadow) will see Brodie's abandoned plate as open for the taking. This means I can't just leave it out for Brodie to come back to in his own time...Shadow would eat all day if I gave him the opportunity.

I've also had no real success trying to feed Brodie in a separate room with the door shut...I tried this thinking it might give him a greater sense of security if he couldn't see the front door, but all that did was confuse him because he's used to eating in the kitchen (plus he seemed alarmed at having been taken alone into another room in the first place).

Matt (the SO) thinks I'm worrying too much about this and that Brodie will eat when he's hungry enough. This could very well be true but at the same time Brodie is a large cat and I know that puts him at higher risk of hepatic lipidosis if he goes more than 24 hours without eating, or a week (give or take a few days) eating much less than he should for his size.

All that said, I actually do have a theory as to why the sudden obsession with the front door: Halloween. I tried to feed all the kitties before any trick-or-treaters showed up, and Cora and Shadow ate...but Brodie seemed to be able to tell something was "up", and refused. I had just put some decorations on the front windows and I think those made him nervous just because they looked different than what he was used to. Then we had a lot of trick-or-treaters, which meant people were coming repeatedly to the front door, ringing the bell, talking loudly, etc.

I left several closets open so Brodie could cave up in them if he wanted to, but I can imagine all that activity at the front of the house must have been like his worst nightmare. :/ And it makes sense that he'd still be worried it might happen again a week later. Hopefully this "thing" resolves soon, at any the meantime I will just make sure and offer him several kinds of food (in different rooms, so maybe he'll get used to eating places other than the kitchen) so that he's likely to eat enough each day.


  1. I have just emitted another blog post, about a really neat and cool kitten I met today. Please have a look at it. I don't think this is really off-topic, it being about a cat.

  2. Hi Anne,

    you might be interested in this paper in Science

    Published Online November 11, 2010
    Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1195421
    Science Express Index
    How Cats Lap: Water Uptake by Felis catus
    Pedro M. Reis,1,2,* Sunghwan Jung,3,* Jeffrey M. Aristoff,4,* Roman Stocker1,*,
    Animals have developed a range of drinking strategies depending on physiological and environmental constraints. Vertebrates with incomplete cheeks use their tongue to drink; the most common example is the lapping of cats and dogs. We show that the domestic cat (Felis catus) laps by a subtle mechanism based on water adhesion to the dorsal side of the tongue. A combined experimental and theoretical analysis reveals that Felis catus exploits fluid inertia to defeat gravity and pull liquid into the mouth. This competition between inertia and gravity sets the lapping frequency and yields a prediction for the dependence of frequency on animal mass. Measurements of lapping frequency across the family Felidae support this prediction, which suggests that the lapping mechanism is conserved among felines.
    1 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
    2 Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
    3 Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA.
    4 Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
    * All authors contributed equally to this work.
    To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:



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