We have two cats, Joe and Halloween. They were litter mates, born at what we called “the kitty farm” outside Elgin, Illinois. The farm was (and still is) Dean’s brother’s farm and used to be crawling with cats, many of whom were polydactyl. There are no cats left there now, thanks to a busy road and coyotes. Joe and Halloween may be the lone surviving cats from the kitty farm.
Clare was 6 and Andrew was 4 the year we decided to let Clare pick out a cat from the farm. Carol, Dean’s brother’s wife, pointed out a black and white cat that she said was really friendly, which was unusual since these cats didn’t interact with people very often. She was right about the black and white one — it was friendly and liked to be held. There was also a black cat in the same litter that caught my eye. I had a black cat as a teenager and young adult and loved her. I pointed out the black one to Clare and she ran and picked it up. It, too, was friendly — and curious — and polydactyl.
A note about the polydactyl cats on the farm — a cat with one extra toe is unique and cute. A cat with two and three extra toes is kind of freakish. Some of these cats seemed to have trouble walking with all their extra digits. Inbreeding at play.
At some point we decided to let both kids pick out a kitten to take home (the more the merrier?). Andrew chose the black and white one (a male) and Clare chose the black one (a female). We had one cat at home already, a 13 year old calico that only liked me. When we brought the kittens into the house, we tried everything the books said to introduce the kittens to the older cat. I suppose it worked, but she let them know who was the boss cat of our house.
While Velcro (the older cat) was alive — even when she was ailing, she was the alpha cat — there was no mistake. Both kittens stayed away from her, after their first few slaps.
After Velcro died it was not clear who was alpha cat for a while, but it seemed to be Halloween. Then the tables turned, for some reason, and Joe seemed more dominant. Halloween showed her grief of losing her dominance by licking the fur off her belly and legs. That’s the way things were for many years. Joe ate first while Halloween waited for him to finish. Joe got the comfy chairs and slept on my pillow. He’d groom Halloween if he felt like it, but he’d also bite off the whiskers that grew above her eyes. (the vet thought it was one of the kids cutting her whiskers off, but we once saw Joe doing it).
This past month, however, there has been a power shift. Halloween has been the one to sleep on my pillow, hissing at Joe if he got too near. Joe now sleeps at my feet — where Halloween used to sleep. Halloween eats first and has been found sleeping in the places Joe used to sleep. Halloween’s fur has grown in on her belly — I never see her licking and licking and licking herself like she used to.
I think that Halloween has become the alpha cat in the house. About time!