The Chronicles of Mingo

When A Door Opens, Or, Now I Remember

First thing up: Several readers who are not currently owned by cats have suggested I’m not really that fond of Ming. As it is possible to hold two conflicting ideas in your head at the same time, it is possible to love a cat to bits and simultaneously long to whack him over the head with a mallet. One feeling doesn’t drive out the other. Please note the adorable photo above; thirty seconds after it was taken Ming sank his teeth into my arm. I went from a puddle of awww to a shriek of owww just like that.

Anyway, after a very long week of quarantine, Ming got the all clear from the vet. I opened the bathroom door, expecting excitement and drama. Not so much: he strolled around the house like a prospective buyer, calmly inspecting each room. I thought he might say “I like the layout, can we talk about utility costs?” The climax, such as it was, came when he hopped on the bed and cautiously touched noses with Squeaky. Squeaky was around when Ming was a kitten — he’s the cat who famously barfed when he first saw him — and I’d put a pheromone collar back on him. No drama, no fireworks.

Then.

Sophie the Tiny Cat was also on the bed, but she’d crept under the blankets for a nap and she stayed there all day, obviously hoping whatever was walking on her would go away and not come back. Alas, poor Sophie.

My dear friend Kay, a self-professed cat lady, pointed out Ming had no scars from fights and that his ears were not tattered. This, according to her, meant he’d been inside or protected during his absence. After a week of Ming roaming the house, I have a different theory. I think the reason Ming doesn’t have any fight scars or wounds is because he won all his fights. Because he’s huge and he fights all the time.

I remember — now I remember — what it was like choreographing movements when you have three cats and one of them is Ming. I’m back feeling like the man who had to get the fox, the chicken, and the bag of grain over the river in a boat that only took one at a time, without any of them eating the other. It’s possible but you have to think it out.

Feeding time: I feed Mingo first, shut up in the back room. Then I give Squeaky his meds, and feed him and Sophie. Squeaky eats right away but Sophie is a nibbler. She’ll wait for Squeaky to finish and then nibble a bit. She walks away. Ten minutes later she returns and nibbles some more. I give her as long as I can before I let Mingo loose, because he immediately rushes over and polishes off whatever is left.

Squeaky weighs 11 lbs. Sophie weighs 9. Mingo weighed 11 lbs. at the vet’s, but he’s a third again Squeaky’s size and I’ve been feeding him at least 4 times a day. He eats everything I give him; he’s putting flesh on his huge bones. Maine Coons eat a lot.

Mingo has had at least one serious screaming roll-on-the-floor snarling fight with Squeaky. The fur literally flew. I separated them; neither was injured. I’m not sure whether there wasn’t time for serious biting, or it was all dominance display and relatively harmless. Sophie, being half Ming’s size, runs. Of course, he chases her. He chases her a lot. Every so often they are in the same room and we have relative peace, but not often. Sophie survived life in a feral colony; I’m hoping she can survive Ming. She is eating and she still has her nap times on my bed but she won’t sit in my lap anymore, because Ming, which is sad. I miss her.

Both Mingo and Squeaky have pheromone collars on. The collar seems to reduce Squeaky’s stress, because he’s acting normally except when he’s going north through a doorway and Ming is going south. And today they might (I say again might) have been playing, chasing each other around the hassock. His collar has no effect on Ming, except he smells like a bunch of flowers.

I think Ming is bored and easily over-stimulated into biting. According to about three cat “authorities” on the web, bottle-fed kittens frequently have biting problems because the human doing the bottle feeding didn’t teach them not to bite, as a mother cat would. Since I’m the one who bottle-fed this monster, clearly this is all my fault. Who the hell knew?

When he bites, I pull my hand/arm/limb away and disengage, ignoring him. It does seem to confuse him, although his response is to try to bite harder. He also gets timeouts, like a tantrum-throwing two year old.

In time, I hope we all get used to one another. I remind myself, with cats, it’s all about patience. It took 9 months for Sophie to sit in my lap. I’m not going to venture a guess on how long it will take Ming to stop tormenting the other cats, and for them to adjust to him.

In the meantime, I’m pinning my hopes on getting the catio built. It might cure Ming’s boredom and give him a socially acceptable outlet for all that energy. Fingers crossed.

Mary Holland

Mary Holland writes alternative-world fantasy for grown-ups. Her books include Matcher Rules, The Bone Road, and The Dog of Pel. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with three cats and an ever-changing assortment of wildlife.

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