Ultimately, my own intuition led me toward a resolution. I read about a population density study on feral cats living in Venice Italy. The number of male cats that could live peacefully together in a small area is in direct proportion to the availability of food and females. I had noticed that Pyewackett would attack Sho-zen if I took Pye to the vet, or if Pye was hungry and it wasn’t feeding time, or if I petted Sho-zen. Per the vet’s recommendation (due to the fact that Pye had a tendency to look like a sumo wrestler when he was free fed) I had fed Pye meals twice a day for years. I wondered if Pye’s aggression was his way of acting out a need. So, I gave him as much food as he wanted, and lavished affection on him.
Pyewackett gained a little weight, but his aggression diminished dramatically. Then I lavished affection on Sho-zen and encouraged him to venture out of his safety zones. Slowly but surely the cats began tolerate each other. They were no longer destroying my home. I no longer had to keep a door between them. Sho-zen was no longer in danger of being injured.
For a few years the cats got along better, but Sho-zen was still cautious. He hissed (a form of fear aggression) when Pye came too close and lived in “his” own self-defined territory. Then, every six months or so, Sho-zen would move to a new territory. For instance, he would spend 90% of his time sleeping in the living room on the rocking chair; then he would move to the Victorian chair, then to the couch, then upstairs to my studio/office to the art-deco chair, then back to the living room, etc. The only exception to the rule was the couch in the living room. For some strange reason, the couch was neutral territory, as both cats would cuddle up with me on the “Swiss Couch.”
I tried to encourage Sho-zen to expand his territory by carrying him into the bedroom, but that terrified him. Pyewackett had clearly defined the bedroom as his. Then in 2008, Sho-zen’s desire became stronger than his fear. After Pyewackett was placed on a prescription diet, Sho-zen (who is normally a picky eater) began to sneak in the Pye’s room to dine on the delicious kibble.
May of 2009, Sho-zen had moved to the loveseat in the kitchen. For well over a year, his coat looked terrible and he lost weight. Ten months prior, his veterinarian couldn’t find anything wrong with him, and chalked it up to old age. I was convinced there was more to it than that, and I was terrified that there was something was seriously wrong. So, I drove Sho-zen thirty-one miles to Dr. Tracy McFarland, “The Cat Doctor”, for a second opinion. She discovered four abscessed teeth and surgically removed them.
When I brought Sho-zen home from the hospital, wide-eyed and doped up on pain meds, like a cheetah, he leaped out of the carrier the instant I opened the door and ran upstairs into the bedroom. So, I closed the bedroom door, and there he stayed for days, safe and protected. Needless to say, Pyewackett was not happy about this arrangement. When Sho-zen was feeling well enough to venture out about in the house, Pye was intent on showing Sho-zen he was boss. A few minor scuffles occurred, but no one was hurt.
Four days, after surgery, Sho-zen was showing signs he felt better than he had in two years. I working away at my computer, when I heard a catfight. I ran downstairs, yelling “PYEWACKETT, PYEWACKETT!” When I got to the bottom of the stairs, Pyewackett was trotting out of the kitchen into the living room. Sho-zen, to my surprise, followed Pye and jumped on top of him. I stood there, not knowing what to do. Part of me wished I would have grabbed my camera, so I could have captured the knock-down, drag-out, furious screeching, ball of teeth and claws for the film. Instead, I screamed, “SHO-ZEN, YOU HAVE NO TEETH!”
I was so worried Pye was going to hurt Sho-zen, I grabbed a throw pillow and hit Pyewackett, breaking up the fight. “Go to your room,” I ordered, pointing toward to the stairs. Well-trained Pye dutifully obeyed, and trotted upstairs, all puffed up like a Halloween cat. Again, to my astonishment, Sho-zen was undeterred and pursued Pye up the stairs. I followed them both.
Sho-zen stood at the bedroom door, Pyewackett was in the bedroom, still resembling a Halloween cat. I entered the room, knelt down, and petted both cats, one at a time. As, I stroked the top of Pyewackett’s head, Sho-zen strutted by like he was the King of the Castle, jumped on top of the bed, curled in a ball and went to sleep.
The moment Sho-zen stood up for himself the dysfunctional dynamic instantly transformed. Sho-zen has moved into the bedroom. He has full access of our entire home without fear of being attacked by Pyewackett. For years, I slept with Pyewackett cuddled up next to me, the door closed, so I could be assured war wouldn’t break out in the middle of the night. I fantasized about lying in bed at night cuddling both cats. I honestly never thought it would happen. But, now I sleep with the door open and Sho-zen by my side. Pyewackett has been displaced a bit. Mostly he sleeps on the couch, but in the mornings he cuddles with me, and Sho-zen.
My dream came true. It only took fourteen years, one month and two days.