Photo Courtesy of Teresa Conahan
When the family cat, Pumpkin, turned ten, Oceanna Gage, who lives in Southern California with her two children and husband, finally agreed to get another cat. Her daughter, Autumn, had been begging for a kitty of her own, and there was the issue of bedtime. The family referred to Pumpkin as the "cat nanny." She took turns putting the kids, Levi and Autumn, to sleep.
“They argued every night. 'I get her tonight! No, I get her tonight!'" recalls Gage.
The family went to a local shelter in 2018 and found Gus, a gray mackerel tabby with narrow stripes (like a tiger) and piercing pale green eyes. Autumn fell in love with the soft gray kitten. The shelter told them he had been found in a bush, and while he was shy at first, he eventually came out of his shell in a big way.
“He loves catnip; he plays and gets so silly. It's hilarious."
Gage says Gus is extremely social. He loves palling around with her teenage son and follows him through the neighborhood as he skateboards. “Gus is a typical boy," says Gage. He's a mighty hunter (something a veterinarian friend told her is entirely normal) that rids the neighborhood of pests and begs to be let out of the house to explore each morning. He also tries to assert himself against the older female. Conflicts, something that can be common in multi-cat households, happen frequently.
“He postures and sticks his head down like a horse, and Pumpkin freaks out," says Gage.
Gage began searching for ways to help Gus and Pumpkin get along, but nothing seemed to work. The two cats began getting into raucous fights that went around the house. If any family member was in the area, they were likely to get scratched. Pumpkin, she says, could be a bully and egg Gus on.
“She's not very nice to him. She'll throw jabs and punches. You can tell he gets stressed around her. He needs to be physical with her to solve the issues; she sees it as very threatening."
Gus began peeing frequently and appearing to be in pain. Gage, an oncology social worker and in tune with emotional and physical health issues, became concerned. She thought it might be a urinary tract infection, so she took him to the vet. Gage believes stress contributed to Gus' health issues.
The vet recommended she try the Comfort Zone Multi-Cat Calming Diffuser. The diffuser releases a drug-free, odorless vapor that mimics the pheromones a cat releases to indicate an area is safe and secure. (It's kind of like sending a signal in the cat's language to let him know he is safe and can relax.)
Gage has diffusers plugged into various spots around her house, including the kitchen, where lately the family has noticed moments of tenderness between Gus and Pumpkin, something that at one time would have been unthinkable.
While issues between the two cats still arise at times, “the physical interactions have been less dramatic," says Gage. Autumn says she was sitting at the table eating breakfast when she saw the two cats brush against each other sweetly rather than bristle and growl.
Gus, says Gage, is a sweetheart and is very devoted to her. She laughs when she recalls how he was supposed to sleep with the kids but chooses to nuzzle next to her at night.
“He's devoted to me. He's very kind, and he doesn't try to wake you up in the morning. Studies show holding your animal and having that closeness releases dopamine in your brain. I totally feel it. I know they induce it, and I enjoy my cats' company so much."
The Gages look forward to a more peaceful and calm environment for her family and their felines. With the help of a few calming diffusers, their cats' e-meow-tional well-being looks bright.