Definitely Not Catatonic

We have discovered the reason that there is not an adage about whether or not it is possible to teach old cats tricks of any kind. It is not because they are so difficult to train as youngsters. If our 10 year old cat is any indication, it is because they are capable of a complete personality transformation, seemingly at any arbitrary time.


Daphne, our formerly shy shadow of a Maine Coon, used to take her siesta in the clothing drawer under our bed. I discovered this one day when reaching for a sweater and it stretched and yawned at me. She has always played second fiddle to Bobcat, her 23 pound older half brother. She demands affection and attention from the family, particularly at opportune times like when we are dashing from the shower and trying to get ready to leave the house. Her innocent and determined face looks up expectantly as she deposits golden brown tufts of fur on the nearest leg.


Many of our friends have never even met her, as she would race up the stairs when they arrived, leaving the greeting duties to Bobcat and Mr. Dog.


About two months ago her disposition underwent a distinct and increasingly dramatic transition. She started spending much more time downstairs, settling into a chair at the kitchen table, even when there was a table full of guests. I attributed this, in part, to the fact that it’s warmer downstairs (because it’s actually heated) and I still think this is part of it. What has continued to unfold, however, defies such logic.


Demure Daphne has started swatting at Mr. Dog as he prances by with his big enticing fluffy tail. She has nearly clawed my face while taking a swipe at the strings that hang from the hood of my sweatshirt. Having never had any interest in either cat treats or canned cat food, she now races from wherever she is when she hears the crinkle of the treat bag. We can no longer even keep them on the counter because she bats them onto the floor and tries to pry open the bag. While it is possible that either of the other two animals is behind this particular prank, it is the timing alongside her other behaviors which make it suspect.


Even my husband, who had formerly reserved only the most gentle and endearing tones for his sweet little girl cat, was actually compelled to pick her up and deposit her in the office while he prepared a rare beef treat for himself. I even heard an annoyed exclamation when she grabbed the plastic bag that had held the burgers.


She has begun to cross from assertive and playful to downright aggressive in her pursuit of paper (if we are picking it up) or anything that moves within a six foot radius of her active self. My husband has dubbed Daphne “Her Recklessness” and speculates that she is vying for Alpha position in our tiny animal microcosm. Perhaps sensing the increasing frailties of her older feline and canine siblings, she is reassessing her position.


While this may be part of it, it feels more organic to me, and I actually fear some underlying and unwelcome medical shift which accounts for her behavior. We will pursue this, but in the meantime, it is we humans who are trying to keep up with the evolving tricks of our formerly predictable and reticent kitty.

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About Meg

Meg is a licensed independent clinical social worker with over thirty-five years clinical experience. She holds a Master’s Degree from the Boston University School of Social Work and a Bachelor of Arts from the State University of New York at Binghamton.