Queen of the Castle: Leia Finds Her Place

Dancer and choreographer Liz Kessler always wanted a cat as a companion. She went to a shelter in Tallahassee, Fla., looking for a black cat. A fan of underdogs—or "undercats"—she always thought black cats, despite their reputation for being unlucky, were beautiful. But it was a brown and white tabby kitten sitting next to a volunteer that caught her eye and ultimately stole her heart.

Volunteers kept close tabs on the little barn cat because they weren't sure how she'd interact with other pets.

Kessler thought she was so cute with her white socks, but shelter volunteers warned her that the cat, who Kessler named Leia, might never warm up. She was particularly wary of men, and it was clear something traumatic had likely happened to her when she was very young.

"They didn't know what her origins were. She's always been nervous," says Kessler.

A New Home

Undeterred, Kessler took Leia home. She mostly kept to her cat carrier or ran and hid. She coaxed Leia out of her shell little by little; over time, they built a strong bond. Kessler, a self-described "alternative person" who can take time to open up to others, felt they were kindred spirits.

"She is basically me as a cat," says Kessler. "Once she warms up to you, she's the most loving cat ever."

Leia is happiest curled up on Kessler's lap or in the apartment's enclosed patio. Leia turned 4 years old in 2021. Kessler says she seems much more mature and confident. While she knew change could be difficult for Leia, she also thought having a friend might be healthy.

A New Brother

Kessler still wanted to adopt the black cat she always longed for, and she couldn't say no when she saw one at a cat café. Kessler brought friendly, outgoing Spock home. "I have a Star Wars cat and a Star Trek cat," she laughs. Knowing Leia's history, Kessler tread carefully and did extensive research about what to do when you get another cat and the proper way to introduce cats to one another. She kept them separate and introduced them slowly.

Still, it did not go well.

"Spock is so friendly and wanted to be her best friend immediately, and Leia is not like that at all," says Kessler.

Leia began acting nervous again. When Spock would try to interact with her, she would run and hide. Leia started appearing withdrawn.

"For a while, I was really nervous it wasn't going to work out and that Leia wasn't going to be able to deal. I even talked to my parents and asked them to take Spock if this didn't work out," says Kessler.

A New Balance with Comfort Zone

Kessler began using the Comfort Zone Spray & Scratch Control Calming Cat Spray to create a more calming environment for both cats. She sprayed it in their cat carriers to help relax them when traveling and in places in the home to prevent spraying or destructive scratching.

The spray uses a drug-free pheromone technology that mimics the pheromones a cat releases to indicate the area is safe and secure. (It's kind of like sending a signal in the cat's language to let her know she's safe and can relax.)

Within two weeks of using Comfort Zone, Leia started doing better. She became more assertive and made herself known as "queen of the house," says Kessler. She's stopped hiding and has become more loving.

"I've been able to hold her again. And I notice that Leia often has her back turned to Spock, which indicates she's not so worried about what he's doing," says Kessler.

Kessler says she's confident they'll be fine even if they're not the best of friends.

"I've caught Leia grooming him. So, I think their dynamic is in a good place."

The power structure has been established, which has meant more harmony for everyone in the household.