Sometime this winter, our 16-year-old cat Tess moved back into the house. We've had her since she was a kitten, but she's been living outside (by her own choice) for many, many years. Before that, she always tried to avoid us as much as possible. At our old house, she had her own little world in the ceiling pipes in the basement. When we moved to our current house in 1999, she became a little more social, but has never been the kind of cat who wants to curl up in your lap and be petted. Tess always did have a wonderful relationship with our nearly 100 pound shepherd mix Brady, but has pretty much hated every other pet we've had.
Not that I would ever be able to pick her up and weigh her, but I'm guessing Tess weighs at most 8 pounds. That doesn't stop her from completely ruling over the other much bigger pets. I can only guess that this sudden bravado comes from senility because Tess has always been terrified of the other cats and dogs and has done everything in her power to avoid them. Suddenly, in the past few months, she started completely standing up for herself and even regularly chasing down the other pets.
Scout the wiener dog is the most amazing. Scout loves to play fetch over and over and over. This drives Tess nutty and she will hide and then jump at him, smack him and chase him as he tries to retrieve his toy. She sometimes chases him for no apparent reason. He will chase her back and they'll go back and forth, but Tess always ends up winning. Sometimes she'll even casually stroll over and steal food out of Scout's bowl and then smack him with her paw when he growls at her. Scout kind of wavers between healthy respect and outright fear of the little old granny kitty.
Princess has only lived with us since late December, but she is the kind of cat who is very much in charge. I assumed from Day 1 that she would be our alpha pet. She takes no crap from Scout or Tiger (or even any of the humans) but she does accept Tess' dominance. Yesterday Princess was basking in a spot of sun in the living room. Tess walked up and gave a sharp meow. Princess moved and Tess took over the spot. Princess never appears afraid, but she does back down to Tess.
Tiger is funny. He spent his kittenhood chasing Tess. At first he only wanted to be friends, but this tiny kitten got such a reaction of fear and hissing and yowling that he couldn't help himself- at every opportunity he chased and tormented the crazy old kitty. Now Tiger is an enormous, obese cat. He has no fear of Scout or Princess because all he has to do is stand his ground. They can't move his bulk. However, when it comes to Tess, Tiger literally quivers with fear. She regularly forces him to leave a spot or even a room. The other morning Tiger was on my lap, purring and enjoying being petted. Tess sauntered into the room and didn't like what she saw. She gave a sharp meow and Tiger's eyes got huge and scared. He looked at the little kitty and slowly got up from my lap and crept away. Tess didn't want the lap spot- she never wants to be petted or fawned over- she just wanted Tiger to go away.
I can't quite imagine what changed to make this cat who spent her first 15 1/2 years avoiding us and the other pets suddenly turn so tough and mean. It's both amazing and hilarious to watch. I'd love to get at least some of the Tess and Scout chasing on video. I know I'll miss it someday.