My cat Timba is a bully. The sweetheart who sleeps under the covers in the crook of my legs or nuzzles my neck while I recline, who diligently follows me everywhere, giving precious meows and looking utterly adorable, is no angel when it comes to other pets. I haven’t been in denial about this, but neither have I been fully aware. Maybe I’ve known subconsciously all along, but in the past week all the pieces of the puzzle that have been lying around in various parts of my mind have finally come together to form the undeniable and conclusive portrait of my sneaky little troublemaker who takes a special delight in torturing other cats.
I jokingly wrote on Timba’s “about” page that he plucked my former multi-cat household off one by one. That may be less of a stab at humor and more of a point towards the truth. Originally, his antics were cute and funny. He was a very active and playful ten-week old kitten when I got him. I took it in stride and did a good job of curbing and weaning his aggression towards human flesh. The nickname Bitey Boy didn’t stay for too long, but it didn’t necessarily go away. Instead, I think it transferred from flesh to fur.
With five other cats in the house at the time I got Timba, I kept him in my bedroom so he and I could bond. I introduced him two weeks later to the others in one-on-one scenarios, but decided it was best to keep him in my room while I was at work. In the evenings I’d let him out to socialize and play with everyone, but I found that his energy and enthusiasm were not equal to that of any other cat in my home.
He loved to pounce on any and all, and he seemed to lack the ability to know when enough was enough. He either didn’t read other cats’ cues too well, or he simply didn’t care. He never backed down from conflict, even from the resident dog who maybe tripled his two-month frame and goosed him around in circles on his back. He’d simply put up a defensive paw posture, get in a few boxing jabs, and pounce after the dog was admonished to tone it down and go easy on the little guy.
Of all our cats though, Timba hassled Grace the worst. She was my roommate’s seven-year old, who consequently claimed me as her human. I wanted to keep her upon moving, but Timba made sure that no “grumpy old biddy” competed with him for my attention. Poor Grace, declawed and without primary defense, could only run and hide. No match for kitten energy, he was on her before she found cover, eliciting squalls and sending fur flying. I have no idea how he created a large mat in her coat, but sure enough, after a few attacks, Grace’s back had an inexplicably solid knot of fur the size of a baseball. I deemed it necessary and humane to find her a new home, and the Lord of the Jungle increased his dominion.
Once my roommate had found good homes for her cats, it was down to just Toby and Timba. For Timba, that was when the real fun began, and most evenings I had to put him back in my bedroom to give Toby a break. As Timba grew in size, I worried more about Toby, who is my “skinny as a rail” kitty, my “fragile little bird”. He is incredibly light and delicate, whereas Timba is fleshy and solid. My heart broke a few times to hear Toby’s mournful yowling, and even more so when I’d witness the attack with my eyes. Sight and sound combined malevolently to form a picture of torment and fear.
There was a time when I didn’t think they’d last together, and I almost considered giving Toby up. After all, who would keep such an aggressive cat like Timba? If I gave him away he was sure to be abused by some angry human, given to shelters, or maybe considered a worthy opponent in a sick dogfight gamble. But right before moving into my transitional apartment, hope flickered and I saw Toby attempt playing back with Timba. Then when I moved into my temporary place, more change happened and Toby increased his playing with Timba, at times even initiating.
I am so thankful I never got rid of Toby, that Timba’s neutering has helped with some of his behaviors, and that the two of them seem to gel together these days. Most of the time I laugh when I hear Toby’s yowl or witness them romping about; Toby running full speed, Timba loping behind like a patient predator on the prowl. I smile when I see them locked up on the ground, or when Timba holds Toby down in dominance in what I can best describe as a game of “uncle”.
But sometimes I shudder when, after the sound of terror pierces the air and I run to the rescue, all I see is a few airborne hairs with no Toby in sight, but a tuft of fur hanging from the smacking jaws of one very determined and cunning looking Timba, as if to say “Yum, maybe more next time.” Yes, sometimes I worry about my little ‘white lion’ and his only sport, and I think to myself “my goodness, I am the cat mom of a bully.”